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Westminster Shorter Catechism Project

The Shorter Catechism

John Whitecross

Q. 52. What are the reasons annexed to the second commandment?

A. The reasons annexed to the second commandment are, God's sovereignty over us, His propriety in us, and the zeal He hath to His own worship.

1. When certain persons attempted to persuade Stephen, king of Poland, to constrain some of his subjects, who were of a different religion, to embrace his, he said to them, 'I am king of men, and not of consciences. Dominion over consciences belongs exclusively to God.'

2. When Dr Rowland Taylor was brought before Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester, the bishop asked him how he durst look him in the face, and if he knew who he (Gardiner) was. 'Yes,' replied the doctor, 'I know who you are, Dr Stephen Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester, and Lord Chancellor, and yet but a mortal man, I trow. But if I should be afraid of your lordly looks, why fear you not God, the Lord of us all? How dare you look any Christian man in the face, since you have forsaken the truth, denied Christ, and done contrary to your oath and writing? With what face will you appear before Christ's judgment seat, and answer to your oath against popery in King Henry VIII's time, and in the reign of King Edward VI, when you both spoke and wrote against it?'

3. Two men of learning were conversing together about the method they should take, in reference to a certain regulation imposed upon them by the higher powers, and against which they had conscientious scruples. One of them thoughtlessly and impiously swore, 'By my faith,' said he, 'I must live.' The other calmly and pleasantly replied, 'I hope to live by my faith too, though I dare not swear by it.' The result was, that the man who resolved by grace to venture his temporal interests for conscience' sake, lived in prosperity to see the other begging, and to contribute to his relief.

4. A Spanish boy who was a Roman Catholic, having a silver crucifix hanging round his neck, was asked by a person to sell it for half a dollar, at which he shook his head. He was then offered a dollar, to which he answered in broken accents, 'No, not for tousand of tousands.' Is not this a keen reproof to children in Protestant countries, who live in the awful neglect of God's 'unspeakable gift?'

5. On one occasion, when the assembly of Divines was convened at Westminster, a long-studied discourse was made in favour of Erastianism, to which none present seemed readily to give any reply. George Gillespie, the Scottish Commissioner, being urged by his brethren, repeated the substance of the whole discourse, and refuted it, to the admiration of all persons who were present. What struck them most was that, though it was common for the members to take notes of what was spoken in the Assembly as helpful to their memory, and Mr Gillespie appeared to be so employed during the delivery of that speech to which he afterwards made a reply, yet the persons who sat next him declared, that upon looking into his note-book, they found nothing of that speech written, but in different places, 'Lord, send light—Lord, give assistance—Lord, defend Thine own cause.'

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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