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Westminster Shorter Catechism Project

The Shorter Catechism

John Whitecross

Q. 16. Did all mankind fall into Adam's first transgression?

A. The covenant being made with Adam, not only for himself, but for his posterity; all mankind, descending from him by ordinary generation, sinned in him, and fell with him in his first transgression.

1. A gospel minister, having preached on the doctrine of original sin, was afterwards waited on by some persons who stated their objections to what he had advanced. After hearing them, he said, 'I hope you do not deny actual sin too'. 'No,' they replied. The good man expressed his satisfaction at their acknowledgement; but to show the folly of their opinions in denying a doctrine so plainly taught in Scripture, he asked them, 'Did you ever see a tree growing without a root?'

2. When Melancthon was converted, he thought it impossible for his hearers to withstand the evidence of the truth in the ministry of the gospel. But after preaching a while, he complained, 'That old Adam was too hard for young Melancthon.'

3. 'I overheard a discourse,' says one, 'something like altercation, between a deacon, his son, and servants.' Some one had informed him that the cattle had broken into the corn field, and were making great ravages. His servants were ordered to make haste and to turn them out, and repair the breach. 'How came they in there?' says one; 'Which way did they get in?' cries another; 'It is impossible, the fences are good,' says a third. 'Don't stand here talking to no purpose,' cries the deacon, with increased earnestness, 'they are in the field destroying the corn. I see them with my own eyes. Out with them speedily, and put up the fence.' As I approached him he began to be more calm. 'Your pardon, sir; these fellows have quite vexed me. They make one think of our pastor's sermon on the origin of sin, spending his time needlessly, inquiring how it came into the world, while he ought to be exhorting us to drive it out.' 'Your observation is just,' said I, 'and your directions to your servants contain sound orthodox doctrine—a good practical improvement to the discourse we have heard to-day.'

4. 'What shall we principally aim to teach our children?' said some Sabbath school teachers to a venerable minister. 'That they are sinners,' answered he. 'And what in the next place?' 'The same: tell it them over and over again; make it the first part of your instructions, and the last; because it is all~important.'

5. Massilon was once asked, how a man who lived so retired could so well describe human nature, to which he replied, 'That he only studied his own heart.' Supposing that all hearts were alike, from this model the illustrious Frenchman portrayed the hearts of others.

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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