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Westminster Shorter Catechism Project

The Shorter Catechism

John Whitecross

Q. 78. What is forbidden in the ninth commandment?

A. The ninth commandment forbiddeth whatsoever is prejudicial to truth, or injurious to our own or our neighbour's good name.

1. 'It was but the other night,' says a godly gentleman, 'that I wandered across the bleak and barren mountains, at the foot of which stands the little cottage where I was born; and, O delightful thought, born again! Yes, it was at the humble spot that I first tasted the bitter cup of true repentance, and drank of the spring of peace, purity, and joy; the remembrance of which often fills my eyes with tears, and my heart with rapture. Seeing a cottage at a distance, I walked up to it, entered, and told the inmates the cause of my being there. I was most kindly received. Seven children were seated around the homely board; yet, sadness seemed to pervade the whole circle. When I asked the cause, the mother informed me that one of the children had been telling a falsehood; upon this a little girl was instantly covered with blushes, and a tear started from her eye. "Robert," said the father, "bring the Bible, and show your sister who it is she has offended." The little boy, younger than herself, read the ninth commandment, and the first eleven verses of the fifth chapter of the Acts. This being done, every member of the family brought a proof from Scripture of the sin and danger of lying. The father, then, with much affection, showed them that this was as offensive to God now, as it was when he struck Ananias and Sapphira dead; and that it was of the Lord's mercies we were not consumed. He then sung the 51st psalm, read a portion of the Word of God, frequently making pious and solemn observations as he went along, and afterwards prayed with his children most devoutly. On rising from prayer the offending girl wept bitterly. She approached her father with pensive looks, begged him to forgive the offence, and withdrew, that she might pray alone to God for His forgiveness. I was of course highly gratified. I returned home under the deep impression of the awfulness of the sin of lying, and could not help wishing that all parents would correct their children in a similar way, whenever they offended in a similar manner.'

2. 'Many years ago,' says a writer, 'I was witness to a very interesting scene at the house of a friend at Walworth, on a Sunday evening. A sermon had been preached in the morning, of which previous notice had been given, particularly addressed to poor children; and the master of the family had taken his own children to hear the discourse, having promised to distribute rewards amongst them, according to the proficiency with which they should repeat the text, and state the heads and points of the sermon. As I entered the parlour, I was struck with the silent employment of the children, who were engaged in preparing themselves for their task; and after tea, they were called up in order. At this distance of time I remember only two circumstances connected with the result. One is, that the memories of the female children, in general, seemed better, and the facility of imparting their ideas greater, than those of the male branches of the family. The other relates to the youngest of the children, a little boy, who, though not expected to say any thing, requested to be heard. The text was too long for him to remember, but he delighted us all by the simple account which he gave of the sermon in the following words: "I heard the gentleman (the minister) say, it was no disgrace to be poor, but it was a disgrace to tell lies."

3. One day there happened a tremendous storm of lightning and thunder, as Archbishop Leighton was going from Glasgow to Dunblane. He was observed, when at a distance, by two men of bad character. They had not courage to rob him; but wishing to fall on some method of extorting money from him, one said, 'I will lie down by the wayside as if I were dead, and you shall inform the archbishop that I was killed by the lightning, and beg money of him to bury me.' When the archbishop arrived at the spot, the wicked wretch told him the fabricated story. He sympathized with the survivor, gave him money, and proceeded on his journey. But when the man returned to his companion he found him really lifeless. Immediately he began to exclaim, 'Oh, sir, he is dead! Oh, sir, he is dead!' On this, the archbishop, discovering the fraud, left the man with this important reflection, 'It is a dangerous thing to trifle with the judgments of God.'

4. Not long ago, a young girl, having stolen a silver spoon from her mother, who was blind, was accused by her of the theft, and repeatedly denied it. On being pressed with the charge, and conceiving what she had further to say might silence any more inquiry, she exclaimed, 'May God strike me dead if I have the spoon!' Judgment was visited on her instantly! She fell dead. On stripping the clothes from the body, there was found to the astonishment of all, the very article of which she had so positively declared her ignorance.

5. Inscription on the Market-Place of Devizes: 'The mayor and corporation of Devizes avail themselves of the stability of this building to transmit to future times the record of an awful event, which occurred in the marketplace, in the year 1753—hoping that such record may serve as a salutary warning against the danger of impiously invoking Divine vengeance, or calling on the holy name of God, to conceal the devices of falsehood and fraud. On Tuesday, January, 1753, Ruth Pierce of Potterne in this county, agreed with three other women to buy a sack of wheat in the market, each paying her due proportion toward the same. One of the women, in collecting the money, discovered a deficiency, and demanded of Ruth Pierce the sum that was wanting to make good the amount. Ruth protested that she had paid her share, and said, she wished she might drop down dead if she had not She rashly repeated the awful wish—when, to the consternation and terror of the surrounding multitude, she instantly fell down and expired, having the money concealed in her hand.'

6. Once, while the celebrated Robert Hall was spending an evening at the house of a friend, a lady who was there on a visit, retired, that her little girl of four years old, might go to bed. She returned in about half an hour, and said to a lady near her, 'She is gone to sleep. I put on my night-cap, and lay down by her, and she soon dropped off.' Hall, who overheard this, said, 'Excuse me, madam, do you wish your child to grow up a liar?' 'O dear no, sir; I should be shocked at such a thing.' 'Then bear with me while I say, you must never act a lie before her; children are very quick observers, and soon learn that that which assumes to be what it is not, is a lie, whether acted or spoken.' This was uttered with a kindness which precluded offence, yet with a seriousness that could not be forgotten.

7. The following may serve as a warning to young persons, against deception of every kind. A young man in a seaport town about seventy miles from London, was an excellent swimmer, and very fond of bathing. He frequently used to amuse himself, and deceive the boatmen, by swimming to a certain distance from the shore, and then pretend to be drowning; and when they had taken some trouble to come to his assistance, he would swim away, and laugh at them. One day, as he was bathing, he unfortunately entangled himself in the weeds, so that he could not extricate himself by any means. A boat was coming down the river, but he cried in vain to the men for assistance as they had so often been deceived by him. However, they watched him a short time, and began to suspect that he really wanted their assistance. They immediately went to him, but his spirit had taken its flight.

8. When any one was speaking ill of another, in the presence of Peter the Great, he at first listened to him attentively, and then interrupted him. 'Is there not,' said he, 'a fair side also to the character of the person of whom you are speaking? Come, tell me what good qualities you have noticed about him!'

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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