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Westminster Shorter Catechism Project

The Shorter Catechism

John Whitecross

Q. 18. Wherein consists the sinfulness of that estate whereinto man ftll?

A. The sinfulness of that estate whereinto man fell, consists in the guilt of Adam's first sin, the want of original righteousness, and the corruption of his whole nature, which is commonly called Original Sin; together with all actual transgressions which proceed from it.

1. Dr Milne, the missionary, in speaking of his conversion, says, 'The book which God made use of more especially for convincing me of my sin and misery, was Boston's Fourfold State, which I read with the deepest attention. It conducted me into my own heart, discovered the evil which before lay hid in the chambers of imagery, the monstrous ingratitude to God which marked all my conduct, and the pollution of original and actual sin with which my soul was contaminated. I saw that I was necessarily under the strongest and most righteous obligations to God, and had never for one hour of my life discharged these, but lived in rebellion against the Author of my life; so I was justly under the curse of God's righteous law, and exposed to everlasting misery.' Under the tormenting fears of eternal wrath, he some-times wished himself transformed into a stone, or into one of the birds he saw flying over his head in the fields. He was frequent and fervent in prayer, and was, in the mercy of God, led to those means by which he learned how even a vile and guilty creature, such as he was, might be for ever saved.

2. 'It is a very singular fact,' says a country paper, 'that a hare, that was opened a few days ago at Sheffield, was found to have two hearts. They were joined together by a thin membrane.' An African heathen, after having heard the missionaries for some time, declared seriously to one, that he had now got two hearts within him. The one heart said, Do good; the other said, Do evil. Many, besides this heathen, feel within them two opposing principles.

3. Socrates was once accused by a person who claimed that he could read a man's character in his face, of having a base and lewd disposition. His disciples, knowing his character to be altogether the reverse, were much enraged, and would have beaten the offender; but Socrates interposed, and modestly acknowledged, 'I was once naturally the character he describes, but I have been regenerated by philosophy.' Every Christian will acknowledge that he is by nature a child of disobedience and wrath, and that by the grace of God he is what he is.

4. James Hervey being in company with a person who was paying him compliments on account of his writings, replied, laying his hand on his breast, 'Oh! sir, you would not strike the sparks of applause, if you knew how much corrupt tindcr I have within.'

5. A certain Italian having his enemy in his power, told him there was no possible way to save his life, unless he would immediately deny and renounce his Saviour. The timorous wretch, in hopes of mercy, did so, when the other forthwith stabbed him to the heart, saying, 'That now he had a noble revenge, for he had at once killed both his soul and his body!'

6. The beginning of the Emperor Nero's reign was marked by acts of the greatest kindness and condescension-by affability, complaisance, and popularity. The object of his administration seemed to be the good of his people; and when he was desired to sign his name to a list of malefactors that were to be executed, he exclaimed, 'I wish to heaven I could not write!' He was an enemy to flattery; and when the senate had liberally commended the wisdom of his government, Nero desired them to keep their praises till he deserved them. Yet this was the wretch who assassinated his mother, set fire to Rome, and destroyed multitudes of men, women, and children, throwing the odium of that dreadful action on the Christians. The cruelties he exercised towards them were beyond description. 'The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?' (Jer. 17.9).

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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