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Westminster Shorter Catechism Project

The Shorter Catechism
Illustrated

by
John Whitecross


Q. 48. What are we specially taught by the words 'before me' in the first commandment?

A. These words 'before me' in the first commandment, teach us, That God, who seeth all things, taketh notice of and is much displeased with, the sin of having any other god.


1. Thomas Scott, the expositor of the Bible, speaking of his early years, says, 'A hymn of Dr Watts, entitled, "The all-seeing God," at this time fell in my way. I was much affected by it, and having committed it to memory, was frequently repeating it, and was thus continually led to reflect on my guilt and danger.' 'Parents,' he adds, 'may from this inconsiderable circumstance be reminded, that it is of great importance to store their children's memories with useful matter, instead of suffering them to be furnished with such corrupting trash as is commonly taught them. They know not what use God may make of these early rudiments of instruction in future life.'

2. A profane coachman, pointing to one of the horses he was driving, said to a godly traveller, 'That horse, sir, knows when I swear at him.' 'Yes,' replied the traveller, 'and so does One above.' The coachman seemed to feel the reproof and immediately became silent.

3. God's best servants are distinguished by their cleaving closely to His Word. Among them was John Rogers of Dedham in Essex in the early part of the seventeenth century. He was at first so addicted to vice that, when he was sent to study at Cambridge, he sold his books and spent the money. Notwithstanding his base ingratitude, his kinsman procured him a fresh stock of books and sent him again to Cambridge. Still continuing a profligate, he repeated the same evil behaviour. The same kind benefactor furnished him with books for a third time and, the grace of God this time changing his heart, he became an ornament to his college and eminent for true godliness of life. In time he became famous as a preacher of the gospel, and was even called 'the Enoch of his day.' A bishop said of him that England hardly ever brought forth a man who walked more closely with God. He was remarkable for gravity and seriousness in company. On one occassion a gentleman of rank said to him, 'Mr Rogers, I like you and your company well enough, but you are too precise.' 'Oh, sir,' replied John Rogers, 'I serve a precise God!'

4. A youth, who projected a crime of great magnitude, attracted one evening by the light, strolled into a little chapel at the moment the minister was reading the text from Numbers 32.23, 'Be sure your sin will find you out.' Conscience became alarmed, the violated law of God, with its consequences, was portrayed, and bore a terrifying aspect to the listening sinner, who believed detection must ensue, if the intended sin were committed. The impression remained, and a holy and consistent life resulted.

5. A minister having an only child, his affections were too much set upon it. The Lord in His providence took the child from him by death. The child's portrait was in the minister's possession, which he often took from its case and admired, whilst the object represented was mouldering in the dust. A godly old woman in the minister's congregation, came to him, a short while after the death of his little one, and said, 'Sir, there is something wrong either with you or me, for I have not been enjoying the same benefit from your sermons as I used to get.' He said to her, 'Go home and pray for me.' She did so, and returned after a time, stating that things continued as they had been with her; and always as she prayed for him the passage was brought home to her: He is joined to his idols; let him alone;' upon which he went and took out his idol, and burnt it before her.

6. A lady who once heard William Romaine preach, expressed herself mightily pleased with his discourse, and told him afterwards that she thought that she could comply with his doctrine, and give up every hindrance to godliness but one. 'And what is that, madam?' 'Cards, sir,' 'You think you could not be happy without them.' 'No, sir; I know I could not.' 'Then, madam, they are your god, and they must save you.' This pointed and just reply is said to have issued in her conversion.


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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