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Westminster Shorter Catechism Project

The Shorter Catechism
Illustrated

by
John Whitecross


Q. 35. What is sanctification?

A. Sanctification is the work of God's free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness.


I. George Whitefield had formed an acquaintance with Dr Franklin, the American philosopher, who frequently heard him preach, though not, it is to be feared, with the same benefit which so many others had derived from it. 'Not many wise after the flesh are called.' In a letter dated August, 17, 1752, he thus exhorts his philosophical correspondent to still higher pursuits; 'I find you grow more and more famous in the learned world. As you have made a pretty considerable progress in the mysteries of electricity, I would now humbly recommend to your diligent, unprejudiced pursuit and study, the mystery of the new birth. It is a most important, interesting study, and, when mastered, will richly answer and repay you for all your pains. One, at whose bar we are shortly to appear, hath solemnly declared, that without it we cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven. You will excuse this freedom. I must have something of Christ in all my letters.'

2. Two or three years before John Newton's death, when his sight was become so dim that he was no longer able to read, an aged friend and brother in the ministry called on him to breakfast. Family prayers following, the portion of Scripture for the day was read to him. It was taken from Boganky's Golden Treasury: 'By the grace of Cod I am what I am.' It was Newton's custom on these occasions, to make a short familiar exposition on the passage read. After the reading of this text, he paused for some moments, and then uttered the following affecting soliloquy: 'I am not what I ought to be. Ah! how imperfect and deficient. I am not what I wish to be. I abhor what is evil, and I would cleave to what is good. I am not what I hope to be; soon, soon, I shall put off mortality, and with mortality all sin and imperfection. Yet, though I am not what I ought to be, nor what I wish to be, nor what I hope to be, I can truly say, I am not what I once was—a slave to sin and Satan; and I can heartily join with the apostle, and acknowledge, "By the grace of God, I am what I am." Let us pray.'

3. A friend of Archbishop Usher repeatedly urged him to write on sanctification, which at length he engaged to do; but a considerable time elapsing, the performance of his promise was importunately claimed. The bishop replied to this purpose: 'I have not written, and yet I cannot charge myself with a breach of promise; for I began to write, but when I came to treat of the new creature which God formeth by His Spirit in every regenerate soul, I found so little of it wrought in myself that I could speak of it only as parrots, or by rote, without the knowledge of what I might have expressed; and therefore I durst not presume to proceed any further upon it. I must tell you, we do not understand what sanctification and the new creature are. It is no less than for a man to be brought to an entire resignation to the will of God, and to live in the offering up of his soul continually in the flames of love, as a whole burnt-offering to Christ; and oh! how many who profess Christianity, are unacquainted experimentally with this great work upon their souls.'

4. Robert the Bruce, the restorer of the Scottish monarchy, being out one day reconnoitering the enemy, lay at night in a barn, belonging to a loyal cottager. In the morning, still reclining his head on the pillow of straw, he noticed a spider climbing up the beam of the roof. The insect fell to the ground, but immediately made a second attempt to ascend. This attracted the notice of the hero, who, with regret, saw the spider fall a second time from the eminence. It made a third unsuccessful attempt. Not without a mixture of concern and curiosity, the monarch twelve times beheld the insect baffled in its design; but its thirteenth attempt was crowned with success; it gained the summit of the barn. Bruce, starting from his couch, exclaimed, 'This despicable insect has taught me perseverance. I will follow its example. Have I not been twelve times defeated by the enemy's superior force? On one fight more hangs the independence of my country.' In a few days his anticipations were fully realized, by the glorious result to Scotland of the battle of Bannockburn. Let the Christian learn, both from the insect and the patriot, to persevere in his endeavours to overcome his spiritual enemies, and to gain the crown of glory. Constancy will issue in his reaching these objects of his holy ambition.


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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