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Westminster Shorter Catechism Project

The Shorter Catechism

John Whitecross

Q. 4. What is God?

A. God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable in His being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.

1. Thomas Raffles, in his interesting Alpine Tour, relates a circumstance worthy of notice. 'Yet,' says he, 'amid these scenes, surrounded by the sublimest demonstrations of the eternal power and Godhead of the Almighty, a wretch has had the hardihood to avow and record his atheism, having written over against his name in the Album, at Montanvert, "An atheist". It seems as if some emotions of shame touched him at the time, for he has written it in Greek. It caught the eye of a divine who succeeded him, and he very properly wrote underneath, in the same language, "If an atheist, a fool,-if not, a liar."

2. Simonides, a heathen poet, being asked by Hiero, king of Syracuse, What is God? desired a day to think upon it; and when that was ended, he desired two; and when these were past, he desired four days; thus he continued to double the number of days in which he desired to think of God, before he could give an answer. Upon which the king expressed his surprise and asked him what he meant by this strange behaviour? To which the poet answered, 'The more I think of God, He is still the more unknown to me.'

3. A certain man went to a Mohammedan friar, and proposed three questions: 1, 'Why do they say that God is omni-present? I do not see Him in any place; show me where He is. 2, Why is man punished for his crimes, since whatever he does proceeds from God? Man has no free will, for he cannot do any thing contrary to the will of God, and if he had power, he would do everything for his own good. 3, How can God punish Satan in hellfire, since he is formed of that element? and what impression can fire make on itself?' The friar took up a large clod of earth, and struck him on

the head with it. The man went to a judge and said, 'I proposed three questions to such a friar, who flung such a clod of earth at me, as has made my head ache.' The judge, having sent for the friar, asked, 'Why did you throw a clod of earth at his head, instead of answering his questions?' The friar replied, 'The clod of earth was an answer to his speech. He says he has a pain in his head; let him show me the pain, and I will make God visible to him. And why does he make a complaint to you against me? Whatever I did was the act of God; I did not strike him without the will of God; and what power do I possess? And, as he is compounded of earth, how can he suffer pain from that element?' The man was confounded, and the judge highly pleased with the friar's answer.

4. 'The Jews would not willingly tread upon the smallest piece of paper in their way, but picked it up; for possibly, said they, the Name of God may be on it. There was some superstition in this . . .. But trample not on the soul of any. There may be some work of grace that thou knowest not of. The Name of God may be written on that soul thou treadest on. It may be a soul that Christ thought so much of as to give His precious blood for it. Therefore despise it not.'

5. The teacher of a Sabbath School in Bristol, discoursing with the children, asked among other things, 'Where is God?' One of the elder boys immediately answered, 'In heaven.' The teacher not appearing satisfied with this reply, repeated the inquiry, when a lad, younger than the other, answered, 'Everywhere.' Requiring still further explanation, the question was again put, 'Where is God?' when a third boy called out, 'God is here.' The views of the teacher were now met; and he endeavoured to impress upon the minds of the children the important truth, that God is in heaven—God is every where—God is here.

6. It was a fine reply that a pupil of the Deaf and Dumb Institution of Paris made to the following question, put by a gentleman visiting it, 'What is eternity?' 'It is the life-time of the Almighty!'

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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