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Westminster Shorter Catechism Project

A Commentary
on the
Shorter Catechism

Alexander Whyte

Q. 26. How doth Christ execute the office of a king?
A. Christ executeth the office of a king, in subduing us to himself, in ruling and defending us, and in restraining and conquering all his and our enemies?

the office of a king — See the amplification of this Answer in Larger Catechism, Answer 45.

“The king-becoming graces
Are justice, verity, temperance, stableness,
Bounty, perseverance, mercy, lowliness,
Devotion, patience, courage, fortitude.”

subduing us to himself — We are born in a state of rebellion against God and Christ. We all come into the world alienated from our Maker and Redeemer. And accordingly, one of the leading offices of Christ is to subdue us. And hence it is that every conversion is represented as a conquest : to be more and more brought under law to Christ is the very life of grace and the salvation of the soul. Christ’s sceptre is not so much the symbol of His power as of our salvation.

“Earthly kingdoms are founded not in justice, but in injustice. They are created by the sword, by robbery, cruelty, perjury, craft, fraud. There never was a kingdom except Christ’s, which was not conceived and born, nurtured and educated in sin. There never was a state but it was committed to acts and maxims which it is its crime to maintain, and its ruin to abandon. What monarchy is there but began in invasion and usurpation? What revolution has been effected without self-will, violence, and hypocrisy? What popular government but is blown about by every wind as if it had no conscience and no responsibilities? What dominion of the few but is selfish and unscrupulous? What is military strength without the passion for war? But Christ’s kingdom is of another sort. This is the indelible distinction between it and all other kingdoms, that they spring from evil, and depend on evil, but that the life of the Church lies in what would pull down all the empires of the world — in patience, in simplicity, in innocence, in concession, in passiveness, in resignation” (Newman).

in ruling and defending us — Having subdued us, Christ rules us. We are not compelled, but sweetly constrained to take the law of our life in everything from His Word and Spirit. We are proud to confess that we are not our own. Things we would continually do were we our own, we do not do because we are Christ’s. “Your bodies and your souls are His,” says the apostle. And every breach of the covenant in misruling the body or the soul is an act of rebellion against our heavenly King.

But it is the office of a king to defend as well as rule his subjects. It is the experience of this that teaches His subjects to sing: “The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower.” And our Lord is set before us in Scripture as a priest upon his throne; that is to say, He is an Intercessor whose power is nothing short of the power of a sovereign. And all power in heaven and on earth is in His hand, that by means of it he should subdue, rule, and defend His people.

restraining and conquering all his and our enemies. The enemies of Christ and the enemies of the subjects of Christ are of two kinds, temporal enemies and spiritual. Under temporal enemies may be classed all opposers and persecutors of the cause and people of Christ, with all scoffers and blasphemers of His name. On the other hand, His and our spiritual foes, according to the common classification of Scripture, are sin, Satan, and death. On the restraining and conquering of sin, Pearson uses these weighty words: “Christ then as King destroyeth the power of sin in all those that belong to His kingdom, annihilating the guilt thereof by the virtue of His death, destroying the dominion thereof by His actual grace, and taking away the spot thereof by grace habitual. But in the reprobate and damned souls, the spot of sin remaineth in its perfect dye, the dominion of sin continueth in its absolute power, the guilt of sin abideth in a perpetual obligation to eternal pains; but in all this, in subjection to His throne, the glory of which consisteth as well in punishing rebellion as in rewarding loyalty.” On the restraining and conquering of Satan see Hebrews 2:14; 1 John 3:8; also the history of the Temptation in the Gospels, and the book of Revelation throughout. “The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death . . . death is swallowed up in victory. . . . And death and hell shall be cast into the lake of fire. . . . For He must reign till He hath put all enemies under His feet.”


1. Explain Luke 1:31-33 as our Lord’s contemporaries understood it; also as the Holy Ghost meant it.

2. Dr. Hodge, discussing the kingly office sf Christ, says: His visible kingdom is spiritual, catholic, temporary, and absolute. Explain these attributes, and illustrate from Scripture.

3. Derive and explain the saying: There are two kings and two kingdoms in Scotland.

4. Commit to memory Shakespeare’s King-becoming graces; also Kelly’s hymn: The head that once was crowned with thorns.

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