A footnote

In my sermon this past Sunday, I referenced a story about the Westminster Shorter Catechism, the exact provenance of which I had not bothered to research. A dear friend (who shall remain nameless lest I embarrass him) subsequently sent me a link to Benjamin B. Warfield’s account of the story. Those who heard the sermon will note that I got a few details wrong, but the substance is there. Here’s the pertinent paragraph from Warfield:

“What is ‘the indelible mark of the Shorter Catechism’? We have the following bit of personal experience from a general officer of the United States army. He was in a great western city at a time of intense excitement and violent rioting. The streets were over-run daily by a dangerous crowd. One day he observed approaching him a man of singularly combined calmness and firmness of mien, whose very demeanor inspired confidence. So impressed was he with his bearing amid the surrounding uproar that when he had passed he turned to look back at him, only to find that the stranger had done the same. On observing his turning the stranger at once came back to him, and touching his chest with his forefinger, demanded without preface: ‘What is the chief end of man?’ On receiving the countersign, ‘Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever’ – ‘Ah!’ said he, ‘I knew you were a Shorter Catechism boy by your looks!’ ‘Why, that was just what I was thinking of you,’ was the rejoinder.”

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