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Westminster Shorter Catechism Project

The Shorter Catechism

John Whitecross

Q. 65. What is forbidden in the fifth commandment?

A. The fifth commandment forbiddeth the neglecting of, or doing any thing against the honour and duty which belongeth to every one in their several places and relations.

1. An amiable youth was lamenting, in terms of the sincerest grief, the death of a most affectionate parent. His companions endeavoured to console him, by the reflection that he had always behaved to the deceased with duty, tenderness, and respect. 'So I thought,' replied the youth, 'whilst my parent was living; but now I recollect with pain and sorrow many instances of disobedience and neglect, for which, alas! it is too late to make atonement.'

2. 'A friend of Hue,' says the Rev. John A. James, 'had a son long since gone to join the immortals, who having one day displeased his father before his younger brothers and sisters, not only meekly submitted to parental rebuke, but when the family were assembled at the dinner table, rose before them all, and after having confessed his fault, and craved his father's forgiveness, admonished the junior branches of the family to take warning by his example, and be cautious never to distress their parents, whom they were under such obligations to love and respect. Nothing could be more lovely or more impressive, than this noble act. He rose, by his apology, to a higher place in the regard and esteem of his parents and the family, than he occupied even before his fault. Sullenness, impertinence, and obstinate resistance are meanness, cowardice, littleness, compared with such an action as this, which combines a heroic magnanimity with the profoundest humility.'

3. A certain man had an only son, to whom he was very kind, and gave every thing that he had. When his son grew up and got a house, he was very unkind to his poor old father, whom he refused to support, and turned out of his house. The old man said to his grandson, 'Go and fetch the covering from my bed, that I may go and sit by the wayside and beg.' The child burst into tears, and ran for the covering. He met his father, to whom he said, 'I am going to fetch the rug from my grandfather's bed, that he may wrap it round him, and go a-begging.' Tommy went for the rug, and brought it to his father, and said to him, 'Father, cut it in two; the half of it will be large enough for grandfather, and perhaps you may want the other half when I grow a man and turn you out of doors.' The words of the child struck him so forcibly, that he immediately ran to his father, asked forgiveness, and was very kind to him till he died.

4. A poor negress, a slave in the Island of Mauritius, with great labour and long parsimony, had saved as much money as enabled her to purchase her daughter, a slave like herself, from their common owner; being content to remain in bondage for the pleasure of seeing her child walking at large, with shoes on her feet, which were then the badge of freedom among people of colour, no slave being permitted to wear them. Soon after the bargain had been completed, the affectionate mother happening to come into a room, where this daughter was sitting, very naturally and unconsciously sat down beside her, as she had been wont to do. A moment or two afterwards, the daughter turned round in a rage, and rebuked her, exclaiming, 'How dare you sit down in my presence? Do you not know that I am a free woman, and you are a slave? Rise instantly, and leave the room!'

5. A certain farmer in England had an only son, to whom he was greatly attached, and never could think of chastising him for his faults. When he arrived at the age of twelve years, he bade adieu to his father's house, and went with a band of gipsies. For nearly twenty years he was never heard of. It happened, however, that the old man was under the necessity of taking a journey a considerable way, with a large sum of money. He had to pass a wood, and as he went on, a man rushed from it, seized his horse, and demanded his money. The old man remonstrated with him. He would not hear, but again demanded his money. Most reluctantly he gave it up. The robber, gazing at him, said, 'Do you know me?' 'No,' said the old man. 'Do you not know me?' he repeated. 'No, I do not know you.' 'Well,' said the robber, 'I am your son!' and, returning this money, added, 'Had you corrected me when young, I might have been a comfort to you; but now I am a disgrace to you, and a pest to society!'

6. An undutiful son, who had given his father much trouble and uneasiness, and almost brought down his grey hairs with sorrow to the grave, once called on his father on his birthday, to do him honour. 'Ah! my son!' said his father to him, 'the best way to honour me will be to turn from the error of your ways. If you really respect me, learn to respect yourself; till then I can have no faith in your professions, for how can I expect him truly to honour his father on earth, who dishonours his Father who is in heaven?'

7. John Berridge was once invited to meet a loquacious young lady, who, forgetting the modesty of her sex, and the superior gravity of an aged divine, engrossed all the conversation of the interview with small talk concerning herself. When she rose to retire, he said, 'Madam, before you withdraw, I have one piece of advice to give you. When you go into company again, after you have talked half-an-hour without intermission, I recommend it to you to stop a while, and see if any other member of the company has any thing to say.'

8. Once, at a meeting of ministers, a question was put forward for discussion. Upon the first proposal of it, a confident young man said, 'Truly I hold it so.' 'You hold, Sir!' answered a grave minister, 'it becomes you to hold your tongue.'

9. 'We hear much,' says Richard Cecil, 'of a decent pride—a becoming pride—a noble pride—a laudable pride! Can that be decent, of which we ought to be ashamed? Can that be becoming, of which God hath set forth the deformity? Can that be noble, which God resists, and is determined to debase? Can that be laudable, which God calls abominable?'

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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