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Westminster Shorter Catechism Project

The Shorter Catechism

John Whitecross

Q. 92. What is a sacrament?

A. A sacrament is a holy ordinance instituted by Christ; wherein, by sensible signs, Christ and the benefits of the new covenant, are represented, sealed, and applied to believers.

1. In the year 1805, when an installation of the knights of the garter was approaching, and his Majesty, George III was conversing with some persons of high rank on the subject, a distinguished nobleman said to the king, 'Sir, are not the new knights about to be installed, obliged to take the sacrament before the ceremony?' His Majesty, changing countenance, and assuming a severe look, replied, 'No; that religious institution is not to be mixed with our profane ceremonies. Even at the time of my coronation, I was very unwilling to take the sacrament; but when they told me it was indispensable and I must take it, before I approached the communion-table, I took off the bauble from my head. The sacrament, my lord, is not to be profaned by our Gothic institutions.'

2. The famous Scottish preacher Robert Bruce was once ministering at a Communion Service at Larbert, Stirlingshire. On rising to address the communicants he continued gazing at them in silence. At length, with much concern, he broke out: 'There is some person at this table guilty of an unrepented sin, for my Master has shut my mouth and I can say nothing till he remove. In the Lord's Name I charge him to withdraw from this holy table'. Having thus spoken he sat down and waited. Amid a breathless silence a man rose up from the table and left the building. Upon this Bruce resumed the service and proceeded with much power to minister the Word.

3. 'On Sabbath last,' says a good man, 'we were enabled to keep our New Testament passover; it was a good day, a day of salvation. At the sacred banquet my hard heart melted, and the tears flowed plentifully from my eyes; but they were tears of joy; my heart was full. On Monday, a minister preached from these words: "And one shall say, I am the Lord's." (Is. 44.5). O what a sermon to me! My heart made the happy claim and cheerful surrender again and again. My soul said, I am the Lord's; and with my heart I subscribed it, and I hope and believe will never unsay it.

"Sweet was the hour I freedom felt,
To call my Jesus mine,
To see His smiling face, and melt
In pleasures all divine."

Truly I am Thy servant—I am Thy servant, the son of Thine handmaid; Thou hast loosed my bonds. Why me, O Lord? Why me? What am I, or what is my father's house, that Thou hast brought me hitherto?'

4. Joseph Williams of Kidderminster, in his diary, relates his happy experience on a communion Sabbath (August 26, 1744). 'The whole administration of the Lord's Supper to-day, was,' says he, 'through adorable grace, a sweet opportunity, a most delightful gospel feast. How did my heart burn within me! How tenderly did it throb! What streams of tears, even tears of joy, joy unspeakable and full of glory, flowed from my gushing eyes, while the minister was in his introductory discourse! "As often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show forth the Lord's death till He come." With what humble boldness did I appeal to the omniscient God, to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, that each of the Divine Persons knew the sincerity and integrity of my heart, midst all the imperfections and frailties with which I am encompassed! With what holy freedom and confidence could I desire of God to search and try me, my own heart not condemning me! How did my heart glow with thankfulness and admiration, at the amazing condescension and love of God in Christ Jesus, to a creature so mean, so vile, and sinful! Had the tide of sacred joy swelled a few degrees higher, I could hardly have restrained myself from crying out in the congregation, "O He is come! He is come!"'

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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