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Westminster Shorter Catechism Project

The Shorter Catechism

John Whitecross

Q. 91. How do the sacraments become effectual means of salvation?

A. The sacraments become effectual means of salvation, not from any virtue in them, or in him that doth administer them; but only by the blessing of Christ, and the working of His Spirit in them that by faith receive them.

1. A lady who was present at the observance of the Lord's Supper, where Ebenezer Erskine was assisting, was much impressed by his discourse. Having been informed who he was, she went next Sabbath to his own place of worship to hear him. But she felt none of those strong impressions she experienced on the former occasion. Wondering at this, she called on Erskine, and stating the case, asked what might be the reason of such a difference in her feelings; he replied, 'Madam, the reason is this—last Sabbath you went to hear Jesus Christ; but to-day, you have come to hear Ebenezer Erskine.'

2. During the residence of Sir Ralph Abercrombie at Tullibody, the ancient seat of his family, in Clackmannanshire, his humility and Christian deportment pointed him out as a proper person to fill the office of an elder in the parish church. Being ordained according to the rites of the Church of Scotland, when the solemnity was ended, he addressed the minister to the following purpose: 'Sir, I have often been entrusted by my sovereign with honourable and important commands in my profession as a soldier, and his Majesty has been pleased to reward my services with distinguished marks of his royal approbation; but to be the humble instrument, in the office of an elder, of putting the tokens of my Saviour's dying love into the hands of one of the meanest of His followers, I conceive to be the highest honour that I can receive on this side heaven.'

3. Colonel James Gardiner mentions in a letter the pleasure with which he had attended a preparation sermon on the Saturday before the dispensation of the Lord's Supper. 'I took a walk,' says he, 'on the mountains over against Ireland; and I persuade myself, that were I capable of giving you a description of what passed there, you would agree that I had much better reason to remember my God from the hills of Port-Patrick, than David from the land of Jordan, and of the Hermonites, from the hill Mizar. In short, I wrestled some hours with the Angel of the covenant, and made supplications to Him with floods of tears and cries, until I had almost expired; but He strengthened me so, that, like Jacob, I had power with God, and prevailed. You will be more able to judge of this, by what you have felt yourself upon the like occasions. After such a preparatory work, I need not tell you how blessed the solemn ordinance of the Lord's Supper proved to me: I hope it was so to many.'

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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