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Westminster Shorter Catechism Project

The Shorter Catechism

John Whitecross

Q. 12. What special act of providence did God exercise towards man in the estate wherein he was created?

A. When God had created man, He entered into a covenant of life with him, upon condition of perfect obedience; forbidding him to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil upon the pain of death.

1. In the reign of Charles I, the goldsmiths of London had a custom of weighing several sorts of their precious metals before the privy council. On one occasion they made use of scales, poised with such exquisite nicety, that the beam would turn, the master of the company affirmed, at the two-hundredth part of a grain. William Noy, the attorney-general, standing by and hearing this, replied, 'I shall be loath, then, to have all my actions weighed in these scales.' 'With whom I heartily concur,' says James Hervey, 'in relation to myself. And since the balances of the sanctuary, the balances in God's hand, are infinitely exact, O what need have we of the merit and righteousness of Christ, to make us acceptable in His sight, and passable in His esteem!'

2. As man at first broke the law of God, notwithstanding the dreadful penalty annexed to disobedience, so sinners, from the depravity of their nature, the pernicious influence of erroneous principles, and the uncontrolled force of bad habits, still proceed in their evil courses, in opposition to threatened misery both in a present and future world.

A gentleman of a very amiable disposition, and justly popular, contracted habits of intemperance; his friends argued, implored, remonstrated; at last he put an end to all importunity in this manner. To a friend, who was addressing him in the following strain: 'Dear Sir George, your family are in the utmost distress on account of this unfortunate habit; they perceive that business is neglected; your moral influence is gone; your health is ruined; and, depend upon it, the coats of your stomach will soon give way, and then a change will come too late', the poor victim, deeply convinced of the hopelessness of his case, replied thus: 'My good friend, your remarks are just, they are indeed too true; but I can no longer resist temptation: if a bottle of brandy stood at one hand, and the pit of hell yawned on the other, and if I were convinced that I would be pushed in as surely as I took one glass more, I could not refrain. You are very kind; I ought to be very grateful for so many kind, good friends; but you may spare yourself the trouble of trying to reform me—the thing is impossible.'

3. A servant who had drawn conclusions which might be expected from hearing the irreligious and blasphemous conversation continually passing at the table upon which he waited, took an opportunity to rob his master. Being apprehended, and urged by his master to give a reason for this infamous behaviour, 'Sir,' said he, 'I have heard you and your friends so often talk of the impossibility of a future state, and that after death there was no reward for virtue, nor punishment for vice, that I was tempted to commit the robbery.' 'Well,' replied the master, 'but had you no fear of that death which the laws of your country inflict upon the crime?' 'Sir', rejoined the servant, looking sternly at his master, 'what is that to you, if I had a mind to venture it? you and your wicked companions had removed my greatest terror, why should I fear the less?'

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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