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Westminster Shorter Catechism Project

The Shorter Catechism

John Whitecross

Q. 82. Is any man able perfectly to keep the commandments of God?

A. No mere man, since the fall, is able in this life perfectly to keep the commandments of God, but both daily break them in thought, word, and deed.

1. Dr John Gill was once preaching on human inability. A gentleman present was much offended, and took him to task for degrading human nature. 'Pray, sir,' said the doctor, 'what do you think that man can contribute to his conversion?' He enumerated a variety of particulars. 'And have you done all this?' said the doctor. 'Why, no, I cannot say I have yet; but I hope I shall begin soon.' 'If you have these things in your power, and have not done them, you deserve to be doubly damned, and are but ill qualified to be an advocate for free-will, which has done you so little good.'

2. Anne de Montmorency, a marshal of France, having been mortally wounded at an engagement, was exhorted by those who stood around him, to die like a good Christian, and with the same courage which he had shown in his lifetime. To this he replied in the following manner: 'Gentlemen and fellow-soldiers! I thank you all very kindly for your anxious care and concern about me: but the man who has been enabled to endeavour to live well, for almost four score years past, can never need to seek now, how to die well for a quarter of an hour. But observe, my having been enabled to endeavour to live well, is not the ground of my dependence; no, my sole dependence is on Jesus Christ. It is by the grace of God, through Him, that I now am what I am.'

3. Some years ago, two pious weavers were conversing together, and complaining of the trouble which they found from vain and evil thoughts in the solemn duties of religion. Another person of the same business overheard them, and rushing forth, said, 'I always thought you two vile hypocrites; but now I know it from your own confession. For my part, I never had such vain and wicked thoughts in my life.' One of the men took a piece of money out of his pocket, and put it into his hand, adding, 'This shall be yours, if after you cor you cor you cor you coext time, you can say you had not one vain thought there.' In a few days he came, saying, 'Here take back your money, for I had not been five minutes in the church before I began to think how many looms could be set up in it.'

4. It is related of one of the ancients, that a man without learning came to him to be taught a psalm. He turned to the 39th, but when he had heard the first verse of it, 'I said, I will take heed to my ways, that I sin not with my tongue,' the man would hear no more, saying, this was enough, if he could practise it; and when the instructor blamed him, that he had not seen him for six months, he replied that he had not done the verse; and forty years after, he confessed he had been all that time studying it, but had not learned to fulfil it. 'If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body' (James 3.2).

5. A young man of rank and fortune, just returned from making the grand tour on the Continent of Europe, had tinged himself with most of the vices and follies of the places through which he travelled. Among other accomplishments of this nature, he had gained a little knowledge of the creative art, which he frequently graced with an endless volubility of tongue. One day in particular, he was dealing out accounts of the number of presents which he had received while abroad, especially a rich bridle from the Emperor of Russia, the ornaments of which were of gold. 'It was so exquisitely fine,' said his lordship, 'that it can never be used in the mouth of a filthy horse. What shall I do with it, Colonel?' continued he to an old veteran in the army. 'Put it on your tongue, my lord,' answered the soldier. His lordship was silenced.

6. A woman, professing to be under deep conviction, went to a minister, crying aloud that she was a sinner; but when he came to examine her in what point, though he went over and explained all the ten commandments, she would not own that she had broken one of them.

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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