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Westminster Shorter Catechism Project

The Shorter Catechism
Illustrated

by
John Whitecross


Q. 88. What are the outward means whereby Christ communicateth to us the benefits of redemption?

A. The outward and ordinary means whereby Christ communicateth to us the benefits of redemption, are His ordinances, especially the word, sacraments, and prayer; all which are made effectual to the elect for salvation.


1. John Berridge is said in one year to have been visited by a thousand different persons under serious impressions; and it has been computed, that under his own and the joint ministry of Mr Hicks, about four thousand were awakened to a concern for their souls, in the space of twelve months. Incredible as this may appear, it is authenticated through a channel so respectable, that it would be illiberal to disbelieve it.

2. At a meeting of the Aberdeen Auxiliary Bible Society, the following pleasing anecdote was related by an eye-witness of the scene. 'Last year,' said he, 'a vessel from Stockholm was driven upon our coast in a tremendous gale, and became a total wreck. Her condition was such, that no human aid could possibly preserve the crew. In a short while after the vessel struck, she went to pieces. The persons on shore beheld with grief the awful state of those on board, but could render them no aid. They all perished except one lad; and he was driven by the waves upon a piece of the wreck, entwined among the ropes attached to the mast. Half-naked and half-drowned, he reached the shore. As soon as they rescued him, they saw a small parcel tied firmly round his waist with a handkerchief. Some thought it was his money; others, the ship's papers; and other said it was his watch. The handkerchief was unloosed, and to their surprise it was his BIBLE,—a Bible given to the lad's father by the British and Foreign Bible Society. Upon the blank leaf was a prayer written, that the Lord might make the present gift the means of saving his son's soul. Upon the other blank leaf, was an account how the Bible came into the father's hands, with expressions of gratitude to the Society from which he received it. To this was added a request to his son, that he would make it the man of his counsel; and that he could not allow him to depart from home without giving him the best pledge of his love—a Bible; although that gift deprived the other parts of the family of the Book. The Bible bore evident marks of having been often read with tears.'

3. John Skinner of Gloucestershire, was a strolling fiddler, going from fair to fair, and supplying music to any that would hire him. Having determined to incommode George Whitefield, who was going to preach, he obtained a standing on a ladder raised to a window near the pulpit; he remained a quiet, if not an attentive hearer, till the text was named, when he intended to begin his opposing and annoying exercise on the violin. It pleased God, while he was putting the instrument in tune, to convey the word spoken with irresistible power to the soul. His attention being diverted from its original design, and his purpose broken, that God's purpose according to election might stand, he heard the sermon out, after which he became altogether a changed character.

4. John Bailey of Lancashire, an eminent divine of the seventeenth century, was so honoured of God as to be made the instrument of the conversion of his own father, while he was yet a child. His mother was a remarkably godly woman, but his father a very wicked character. The good instructions and frequent prayers of the former, were so blessed to the soul of little John, that he was converted to God while very young; and having a remarkable gift in prayer, his mother caused him to pray in the family. His father overhearing him engaged in this exercise, was so struck with remorse and shame at finding his child, then not above eleven or twelve years of age, performing a duty in his house which he had neglected himself, that it brought on a deep conviction of his wretched state, and proved under God the means of his salvation.

5. 'The first seal of your missionary,' says the Report of the Baptist Home Missionary Society for 1828, 'was a poor woman, the wife of a day-labourer. Previously to this time, they had lived very happily together, but now the husband became a bitter persecutor; and because his wife would not relinquish the service of God, he frequently turned her out of doors in the night, and during the winter season. The wife, being a prudent woman, did not expose his cruelty to her neighbours, but, on the contrary, to avoid their observation, she went into the adjacent fields, and betook herself to prayer; and often, in a subordinate sense, it might be said of her,

"Cold winter, and the midnight air,
Witness'd the fervour of her prayer:
The desert her temptation knew,
Her conflict, and her victory too."

Greatly distressed, but not in despair, her only encouragement was, that with God all things are possible. She therefore resolved to set apart one hour every day, to pray for the conversion of her persecuting husband. This she was enabled to do, without missing one day for a whole year. Seeing no change in her husband, she formed a second resolution to persevere six months longer, which she did to the last day, when she retired at about twelve o'clock as usual, and, as she thought, for the last time. Fearing that her wishes in this instance might be contrary to the will of God, she resolved to call no more upon Him; her desire not being granted, her expectation appeared to be cut off. The same day, her husband returned from his labour in a state of deep dejection, and, instead of sitting down as usual to his dinner, he proceeded directly to his chamber. His wife followed and listened, and to her grateful astonishment, "he who used to mock, returned to pray." He came down stairs, but refused to eat, and returned again to his labour until the evening. when he came home, his wife affectionately asked him, "What is the matter?" "Matter enough," said he; "I am a lost sinner. About twelve o'clock this morning," continued he, "I was at my work, and a passage of Scripture was so impressed upon my mind, that I cannot get rid of it, and I am lost." His wife encouraged him to pray, but he replied, "O wife, it is of no use; there is no forgiveness for me!" Smitten with remorse at the recollection of his past conduct, he said to his wife, "Will you forgive me!" "O yes." "Will you pray for me?" "O yes, that I will." "Will you pray for me now?" "That I will with all my heart." They instantly fell on their knees, and wept, and made supplications. His tears of penitence mingled with her tears of gratitude and joy. Soon afterwards this godly couple agreed to have their house registered as a place of worship: and the scene of solitary intercession became a house of prayer; and he who was once a persecutor became a deacon in the church.'

6. A young man in America named Stoddart caused his mother much concern, for he lacked all interest in spiritual things. One night the pastor of the chapel which the mother attended saw him outside the building watching the people enter. In a joking and somewhat insolent tone he asked what they were at. 'Young man,' said the pastor, 'this is what we are at: your mother has asked us to meet tonight to pray for you.' Young Stoddart walked away saying, 'Then if these people are praying about me, it is high time I prayed for myself.' Before the meeting was over, in he crept, and with great joy the believers heard him say that he thanked them for praying for him and desired also to pray for himself. The Lord made him a preacher, one sermon that he preached being the prelude to a great revival.

7. The pious George Herbert built a new church at Leighton Bromswold in Huntingdonshire, and by his order the reading desk and pulpit were a little distance from each other, and both of an equal height; for he often said, 'They should neither have a precedency nor priority of the other; but that prayer and preaching, being equally useful, might agree like brethren, and have an equal honour and estimation.'

8. A minister of Exeter, named Kilpin, marked every pew in his chapel, on the divisions of the paper which covered his parlour study, with the names, in short-hand, of their occupants, lest one should be forgotten. Here he daily presented his petitions to God for the spiritual prosperity of each according to their various situations and wants, as far as he knew their characters, temptations, and trials.


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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