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Westminster Shorter Catechism Project

The Shorter Catechism

John Whitecross

Q. 7. What are the decrees of God?

A. The decrees of God are His eternal purpose, according to the counsel of His will, whereby, for His own glory, He hath fore-ordained whatsoever comes to pass.

1. 'Some preachers near Olney,' says John Newton, 'dwelt on the doctrine of predestination. An old woman said, "Ah, I have long settled that point; for if God had not chosen me before I was born, I am sure He would have seen nothing in me to have chosen me for afterwards!"'

2. A young person, riding one day with a friend, asked him, 'What is your opinion of election, sir?' His friend judiciously remarked, 'Stephen, you have learned fractions, decimals, etc.; do you understand them?' 'Yes, sir.' 'Do you think when you were learning addition you could?' 'No, sir.' 'Neither can you, my dear boy, at present comprehend the deep things of God.' The youth appeared much interested, and during the remainder of the journey he seemed to be absorbed in his own reflections.

3. Cornelius Winter was once in company with an Arminian who spoke violently against the doctrine of election. 'You believe election,' said Winter, 'as firmly as I do.' 'I deny it,' answered the other, 'on the contrary, it is a doctrine I detest.' 'Do you believe that all men will be saved on the last day, or some only?' 'Only some.' 'Do you imagine that these some will be found to have saved themselves?' 'No, certainly; God in Christ is the only Saviour of sinners.' 'But God could have saved the rest, could He not?' 'No doubt.' 'Then salvation is peculiar to the saved?' 'To be sure.' 'And God saves them designedly, and not against His will?' 'Certainly.' 'And willingly suffers the rest to perish, though He could easily have hindered it?' 'It should seem so.' 'Then is not this election?' 'It amounts to the same thing.'

4. A person in the lower ranks, at Lochwinnoch, in Scotland, whose life and practice had not been consistent with that of a genuine Christian, was nevertheless a great speculator on the high points of divinity. Even on his death-bed he was wont to perplex and puzzle himself and his visitors with knotty questions on the divine decrees, and such other topics. Thomas Orr, a person of very different character, was sitting at his bedside, endeavouring to turn his attention to what more immediately concerned him: 'Ah, William,' said he, 'this is the decree you have at present to do with, "He that believeth and is baptised shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned".' (Mark 16.16).

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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