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Westminster Shorter Catechism Project

The Shorter Catechism

John Whitecross

Q. 57. Which is the fourth commandment?

A. The fourth Commandment is, Remember the Sabbath-day to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work; but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God; in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy man-servant, nor thy maid-servant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day; wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath-day, and hallowed it.

Q. 58. What is required in the fourth commandment?

A. The fourth Commandment requireth the keeping holy to God such set times as He hath appointed in His word, expressly one whole day in seven, to be a holy Sabbath to Himself.

1. Sir Matthew Hale, a famous seventeenth-century judge, thus speaks of the Sabbath: 'I have,' says he, 'by long and sound experience, found that the due observation of this day, and of the duties of it, have been of singular comfort and advantage to me. The observance of this day hath ever had joined to it a blessing upon the rest of my time; and the week that hath so been begun, hath been blessed and prosperous to me; and on the other side, when I have been negligent of the duties of this day, the rest of the week has been unsuccessful and unhappy to my own secular employments; so that I could easily make an estimate of my successes the week following, by the manner of my passing of this day; and this I do not write lightly or inconsiderately, but upon a long and sound observation and experience.'

2. It is said of the godly and learned Thomas Gouge, that as he forbore providing suppers on the evening before the Sabbath, that servants might not be kept up too late, so he would never suffer any person to tarry at home to dress any meat on the Lord's day for any friends, whether they were mean or great, few or many.

3. Samuel Kilpin, on descending from the pulpit one Sabbath morning, was politely requested by a stranger to dine with him at an inn. He replied, 'Dine with you, sir, at an inn in Exeter on a Sabbath-day! No, sir, not if you would give me the city. A minister who has to address souls, on subjects connected with eternity, dine at an inn with company on the Sabbath day! No, sir, except from necessity, I never sit with my family, but at a short meal, on the Sabbath. I have to preach to myself as well as to others—excuse my firmness, I feel obliged by your kindness.'

4. The Roman Catholic clergy of Ireland at one time manifested the greatest hostility to the schools established in that country in which the Bible was read. A gentleman, on expostulating with a young priest on the subject, was told in reply, that he was only obeying the order of his bishop, whom he was bound to obey by the most solemn and binding oaths taken at his ordination, and of which the bishop frequently reminded him. He added that he did not execute his directions with that severity he ought, for he was positively directed by his bishop to bring together all the children who were sent by their parents to the 'Bible school,' and while he denounced all the curses of the Roman Church against their parents by name, the children were ordered to curse their own parents by pronouncing audibly at the end of each verse the word Amen.

5. A person, known to the author, states that from long observation he has found that, when he has lain long in bed on a Sabbath morning, he has seldom succeeded, though desirous, in getting up early on the other days of the week.

6. In one of the towns of Connecticut, where the roads were extremely rough, Washington, when president of the United States, was overtaken by night on Saturday, not being able to reach the village where he designed to rest on the Sabbath. Next morning about sun-rise, his coach was harnessed, and he was proceeding forwards to an inn near the place of worship which he proposed to attend. A plain man, who was an informing officer, came from a cottage, and inquired of the coachman, whether there was any urgent reason for his travelling on the Lord's-day. The General, instead of resenting this as impertinent rudeness, ordered the driver to stop, and with great civility explained the circumstances to the officer, commended him for his fidelity, and assured him that nothing was farther from his intention than to treat with disrespect the laws and usages of Connecticut, relative to the Sabbath, which met with his most cordial approbation. How many admirers of Washington might receive instruction and reproof from his example!

7. Mr D——, a gentleman engaged in an extensive manufacturing concern in one of the midland counties, was called to London on business. After being engaged till a late hour one Saturday night, he said to a confidential person in his employment, who had come to town with him: 'Well, ——, we cannot settle our account tonight, but must do it early in the morning.' On the Sabbath accordingly, they were occupied in that work, till three o'clock in the afternoon. When dinner was announced, Mr D—— said, 'We have been hard at work all morning, let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.' 'Not,' added he, 'that I have any thought of dying for years to come.' After taking his dinner and wine a postchaise was ordered, and Mr D—— set out for the country. He arrived at home on the Monday night. The next morning (Tuesday), when at breakfast with his wife, and family, a gentleman came into the room, and said, 'Mr D——, have you heard of the death of Mr——?' 'No,' said Mr D——; 'is he dead? It is very different with me; for my part, I am so engaged in business, that I could not find time to die!' Immediately after uttering this sentiment, he rose from the table, and went into the kitchen; and while stooping in the act of drawing on his boot, he fell down on the floor, and expired!

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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