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ost to the same thing: and our own, as was said, may serve ; well as any, if persons be but duly versed and exercised verein. Here is the point ; and all that is wanting, is only first ) understand the words and their construction so, as to lay a ure groundwork, to get the main substance or prime doctrine of religion inculcated into our Catechumen ; and, when this is lone effectually, he may be carried on at leisure to what lengths we please; or otherwise directed to more accurate discourses on each head, till he is able to form a competent judgment for him. self, and can edify by his own perusal of them.”
There can be no better mode of providing for such progressive exercise in the Church Catechism, than by a comparison of its language with the authority to which it appeals. And this exercise may be continued to any extent and for any length of time, by drawing more and more from the inexhaustible fountain of Divine truth. The passages of Scripture quoted, may be more fully studied by a reference to the parts from which they are taken,* they may be compared together, and such results deduced from this exercise, as the reader may arrive at by prayerful and diligent study. Something of this kind is indispensable to the full benefit and adequate influence to be derived from the use of the Catechism. “ By catechising,” says the author, whose remarks have been previously quoted, “ I mean not the procuring our own Catechism, or any other short explanation of Christianity, to be said a few times over by rote, nor the delivering any stated discourse thereon, (though these may be of great use in their turns,) but the free, frequent, and familiar exercising of young persons in it, till they thoroughly understand and can express the meaning of each word and phrase, according to their respective capacities, experience, and degree of improvement; thus leading them on gradually from sounds to
* Such reference will occasionally be necessary to all readers, since the hor sometimes refers to passages of Scripture which he does not **. Sometimes, where the passage is long, the parts to which reference
le are quoted, those intermediate being indicated by a dash (-). Hly, however, the quotation is fully made.
sense ; forming their thoughts and fixing their attention to the reason and relation of things ; aiding and inuring them to reflect a little on such points as are within their reach, and enabling them at length to give a clear account of all parts of the Christian dispensation, and become fully acquainted with their duty both to God and man. This is the office of catechising : which, though it may appear a low, contemptible one, yet is assuredly an arduous task; and which perhaps requires the greatest pains and skill of any part in the whole ministerial function."
The great contrast between the practice of ancient and modern times with respect to catechising, is attributed by Bishop Law, in a great measure, to the neglect of what he considers the proper mode of performing this duty. After referring to the Catechetical schools established in the times of primitive Christianity, and the exercises of several eminent masters in them, still extant, he adds,
“At present this is a work which many, either discouraged by disuse and the despicable notions which are apt to be entertained of it, or deterred by its difficulty, are extremely shy of undertaking. Some have not the desire, some not the resolution, to set about it: and most content themselves with causing the Church Catechism, or a comment upon it, to be repeated in the time of Lent ; and, if they continue to hear the children say it over till they repeat each word in order, think that they have amply done their parts in this respect. But, formerly, the Church of God, both among Jews and Christians, understood his precepts, and their duty, on the point before us in a different manner: and whether our own Church by requiring* "every parson, vicar, or curate, to teach, instruct, and examine the youth and ignorant persons of his parish, in some part of the Catechism, for half an hour or more, every Sunday and holyday ; and all fathers, masters, &c. to cause their children, servants, and apprentices to come at the time appointed, obediently to hear and be ordered by the minister,' and this with so high a penalty,
* The rubric, as in the American Prayer-book, also requires that the catechising should be "openly in the Church."
on each for their neglect, as excommunication once was deemed; whether, I say, she means only their being made to repeat some portion of this Catechism by rote, deserves consideration. Sure I am, catechising in its original, true sense, implies something more than the bare running over an old form, though that consists of proper questions and answers, and contains whatsoever is needful either to belief or practice; and though our own be generally plain, clear, comprehensive, and in many respects as good as most; yet is there still room for several intermediate questions and elucidations, before every point of doctrine be rightly understood, and well digested."
There is another aspect in which the continued and prolonged study of the Church Catechism, upon some such plan as has been recommended, appears of great importance. Bishop Hall, in assigning to preaching and catechetical instruction, (or "preaching” that is “catechistical,”) their respective merits, says of the latter:-“This lays the grounds, the other raiseth the walls and the roof. This informs the judgment, that stirs up the affections. What good use is there of those affections that run before the judgment ? or of those walls that want a foundation ?" Now if the instructions of the Catechism be the foundation of our Christian knowledge, (and they may with great propriety be so called, both from the period of life at which they are generally acquired, and from the importance of the truths which they inculcate,) is it proper to forsake that foundation when the time comes to rear our superstructure ? Is it not important to cherish and train up to full maturity the fruits of that good seed often sown in the heart by the Holy Spirit during the instructions of childhood and youth? Certainly, if early impressions be often the best and most lasting, if early instruc tion be the most influential and important, as it is generally and justly admitted to be, upon these impressions and that instruction the lessons of advancing years should be grafted. There should be one uniform, progressive, and uninterrupted system of advancement in the knowledge of Christ, from childhood to old
“ till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.”
It is also important to remember, although it is scarcely necessary to advert to the fact that to be “sufficiently instructed” in the Catechism is required by the Church as a pre-requisite for confirmation. This appears a small matter to many, but when we remember that the Catechism contains a summary of Christian faith and practice, and that any instruction in it which is merely received into the memory, which does not influence the heart and the life, is insufficient for any good purpose whatever, surely it cannot be said that such instruction is sufficient for the purposes and requirements of the Church.* To obtain sufficient instruction in the doctrines and duties set forth in the Catechism, it must not be put aside with the things of childhood, but retained as a guide in youth and a companion in mature age. He who can meditate at any period of life upon this unadorned and undisguised exhibition of scriptural truth, without feeling the insufficiency of his apprehensions and the unworthiness of his affections towards Divine things, must be either far better, or much worse, than most of those “who profess and call themselves Christians.”
Should the work now presented to the American public tend to promote the important ends for which the Church Catechism was designed, or the more proper and profitable use of the means which it provides for their attainment, the editor will be amply rewarded for the labour which he has devoted to its revision.
Philadelphia, March 21, 1836. * What Bishop Law admirably remarks with respect to Confirmation, is equally applicable to the Catechism as a test of preparation for it:
“That any thing of a religious kind should become matter of form, is ever of bad consequence. When any appointment, how wise and excellent soever at first, dwindles into an empty piece of pageantry, it turns to no small detriment; it introduces an habitual neglect of, and disregard for, sacred things, infects the minds of men with indolence, teaches them to look on all other things in the same light, and pass them over in the like formal, lifeless way.”
THE AUTHOR'S PREFACE
TO THE FIRST EDITION.
TAE substance of the following little volume was originally compiled for the use of an extensive Sunday-sehool.* Each section formed the subject of a monthly examination the scholars, who were previously furnished by their teachers with the Scripture proofs it contained, and expected to quote them in answer to questions put to them by the superintendent. The plan has been pursued for three years, and has been found to promote their progress in religious knowledge more effectually than any method which had been previously adopted; as well as to have the happy effect of increasing their attachment to the school, by rendering their pursuits not only profitable but pleasing. The teachers have also participated in its advantages, and found the part which devolved upon them to conduce much to their mental improvement.
With such encouragement from experience, the work is now submitted to the public, in the hope that similar benefits may result to other schools from adopting the same mode of instruction. It is equally calculated for general use, and will answer the purpose of a Manual of Divinity for young persons.
It will be by no means necessary that the whole of the Scripture references in each examination should be committed to memory. But as the passage which appears most striking to one person may not seem equally so to another, a sufficient variety of texts has been inserted, to give every teacher an opportunity of making choice of such as he considers most appropriate.
* At Leeds.