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Westminster Shorter Catechism Project

The Shorter Catechism

John Whitecross

Q. 103. What do we pray for in the third petition?

A. In the third petition (which is, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven), we pray that God by His grace would make us able and willing to know, obey, and submit to His will in all things as the angels do in heaven.

1. There was a good woman, who, when she was ill, being asked whether she was willing to live or die, answered, 'Whichever God pleaseth.' 'But,' said one standing by, 'if God should refer it to you, which would you choose ?' 'Truly,' said she, 'if God should refer it to me, I would even refer it to Him again.'

2. A Christian widow in London saw, with great alarm, her only child taken dangerously ill. As the illness increased, she became almost distracted, from a dread of losing the child. At length it became so extremely ill, and so convulsed, that she kneeled down by the bed deeply affected, and in prayer said, 'Now, Lord, Thy will be done.' From that hour the child began to recover, till health was perfectly restored.

3. 'The most remarkable and astonishing instance of resignation I ever remember to have met with,' says Toplady, 'is to be found in Fenelon, Archbishop of Cambray. When his illustrious pupil (the Duke of Burgundy, if I mistake not) lay dead in his coffin, and the nobles of the court, in all the pomp of silent sadness stood weeping around, the archbishop came into the apartment, and having fixed his eyes for some time on the corpse, broke out at length in terms to this effect: "There lies my beloved prince, for whom my affection was equal to that of the tenderest parent. Nor was my affection lost—he loved me in return with the ardour of a son. There he lies; and all my worldly happiness lies dead with him. But if the turning of a straw would call him back to life, I would not for ten thousand worlds be the turner of that straw, in opposition to the will of God."'

4. A godly man, who had lost his only son, retired to his room, to pour out his heart to God in prayer. On coming out, he declared, that, for such refreshing and abundant consolation as he had enjoyed in communion with his God, he would be willing to lose an only son every day.

5. 'What occasions that melancholy look?' said a gentleman to one of his young favourites one morning. He turned away his face, to hide a tear that was ready to start from his eyes. His brother answered for him—'Mother is very angry with him,' said he, 'because he would not say his prayers last night; and he cried all day, because a sparrow died, of which he was very fond.' The little mourner turned hastily round, and looking at me, exclaimed, 'I could not say Thy will be done, because of my poor bird.' The gentleman took him by the hand, and pointing to his school-fellows, 'Mark the observation,' said he, 'from the youngest present, only six years old; for it explains the nature of prayer, of which perhaps some of you are ignorant. Many persons repeat words, who never prayed in their lives. My dear boy, I am very glad to find you were afraid to say to God what you could not truly say from your heart; but you may beg of Him to give you submission to His will.'

6. Thomas Potter, whom Dr Doddridge mentions in his Life of Colonel Gardiner, was a plain and simple man. Though very deficient in natural things, yet he enjoyed the gift of a most retentive memory, both of Scripture phrases and Scripture places; and had an aptness of applying suitable texts, in a wonderful, though awkward, manner. Two young persons, who intended to be married in a short time, applied to him, acquainting him with their circumstances, and requesting a text; he immediately pointed them to Psalm 46.10, 'Be still and know that I am God,' as altogether suitable to their case. The parties were quite at a loss how to apply this to their situation, and supposing that he must be mistaken, asked for another; but Thomas insisted on it-he had no other for them. They then retired; but Providence soon explained that Scripture, for within a few days, by a sudden illness, one of them died, and the survivor was left to learn the needful lesson of submission to His will, who does as it pleases Him, in heaven and in earth.

7. A Sabbath school teacher, instructing his class on the third petition of the Lord's prayer, said to them—'You have told me, my dear children, what is to be done—the will of God; and where it is to be done—on earth; how it is to be done—as it is done in heaven. How do you think the angels and happy spirits do the will of God in heaven, as they are to be our pattern?' The first child replied, 'They do it immediately.' The second, 'They do it diligently.' The third, 'They do it always.' The fourth, 'They do it with all their hearts.' The fifth, 'They do it all together.' Here a pause ensued, and no other child appeared to have any answer; but after some time a little girl rose and said, 'Why, sir, they do it without asking any questions.'

8. Thomas Charles of Bala, in Wales, intended to go to Liverpool, but his wife was not willing, knowing the danger in which he had before been. The night prior to the day on which he was to set off; one of the children fell from the bed upon the floor, and it was at first much feared that one of its arms was broken; which happily did not turn out to be the case. But the event had a happy effect on her mind. 'God,' says she, 'can bring a judgment on us while at home, as well as when we are from home; therefore,' she added, 'I will trust you in His hand, to do what He pleases with you, while you are doing His work either on sea or land.'

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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