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Westminster Shorter Catechism Project

The Shorter Catechism

John Whitecross

Q. 49. Which is the second commandment?

A. The second commandment is, Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in the heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate Me; and showing mercy unto thousands of them that love Me, and keep my commandments.

Q. 50. What is required in the second commandment?

A. The second commandment requireth the receiving, observing, and keeping pure and entire, all such religious worship and ordinances as God hath appointed in His Word.

1. In the beginning of the reign of Edward VI of England, Charles V, Emperor of Germany, having requested that leave might be given to the Lady Mary, afterwards Queen Mary, to have mass said in her house, the council sent the Bishops Cranmer and Ridley to the king to entreat him, for certain state reasons, to grant it. The king having heard all that they could say on the matter, gave them such grave and sound answers, supported by Scripture, against any such permission, that the bishops could not reply. However, they continued to press him not to disoblige the Emperor, as such a step might have very bad consequences. The king bade them be satisfied, and told them, 'He was resolved rather to lose his life, and all that he had, than agree to that which he knew with certainty to be against the truth.' The bishops still continuing to urge him, the king at length burst into tears, witnessing his tenderness for the truth, and his zeal for the defence of it, by much weeping, which the bishops no sooner saw, than they wept as fast as he, took their leave, and withdrew. On their return, meeting with Sir John Cheke, the king's tutor, Archbishop Cranmer took him by the hand, and said, 'Ah! Sir John, you may be glad all the days of your life, that you have such a scholar; for he hath more divinity in his little finger, than we have in our whole bodies.'

2. When one of the kings of France solicited M. Bougier, who was a Protestant, to conform to the Roman Catholic religion, promising him in return a commission or a high civil appointment, 'Sire,' replied he, 'if I could be persuaded to betray my God for a marshall's staff I might be induced to betray my king for a bribe of much less value.'

3. When Nathaniel Heywood, a nonconformist minister of Omuskirk, Lancashire, was quitting his living, in 1662, a poor man came to him, and said, 'Ah! Mr Heywood, we would gladly have you preach still in the church.' 'Yes,' said he, 'and I would as gladly preach as you can desire it, if I could do it with a safe conscience.' 'Oh! sir,' replied the other, 'many a man nowadays makes a great gash in his conscience; cannot you make a little nick in yours?'

4. Bishop John Hooper was condemned to be burnt at Gloucester in Mary Tudor's reign. A gentleman, with a view of inducing him to recant, said to him, 'Life is sweet, and death is bitter.' Hooper replied, 'The death to come is more bitter, and the life to come more sweet. I am come hither to end this life, and suffer death, because I will not gainsay the truth I have here formerly taught you.' When brought to the stake, a box, with a pardon from the queen in it, was set before him. The determined martyr cried out, 'If you love my soul, away with it; if you love my soul, away with it.'

5. Mr Aird, originally a mason, became an eminent minister in the reign of James VI of Scotland. The king, knowing he was in straits, sent him a purse of gold, in expectation of procuring his vote in one of those packed assemblies in which he endeavoured to bring in bishops. This good man, though he had at that time neither bread, meal, nor money in his house, had the virtue to refuse it as the case stood. Next morning, while he and his family were at prayer, some person in his parish, who knew his straits, sent him several sacks of meal, and set them down at his door and went away, leaving him to admire that Providence and grace which enabled him to preserve the integrity of his conscience, though at the risk of the displeasure of the king.

6. James Hervey, observing an unevangelical sense given by a celebrated expositor, remarks, 'I am sorry to see this and the preceding interpretation in the works of an expositor, whose learning I admire, whose piety I reverence, and whose memory I honour; yet I must say on this occasion, with one of the ancient philosophers, "Plato is my friend, Socrates is my friend, but, above all, truth is my friend."

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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