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catechisms, when those phrases of scripture are hard to be understood.
Now if this second and third rule were duly attended to, and no sentiments nor phrases were used in the instruction of children but what were plain and easy, it would cut off several superfluous things from the catechisms which are written for younger years; as for instance,
1. There would be no subtle distinctions, no learned logical explications of the deep things of God, no hard scholastic terms would be mingled with our youngest forms of instruction; for how useful soever some of these things may be in the following years of life, to give a more perfect acquaintance with the articles of faith, yet when we are feeding young children with knowledge I fear such nice scholastic explications would be like putting gravel in their milk, or mingling stones together with their bread.
2. If these rules are observed, there would be no quarrelsome controversies brought into the religion of infants, no little party contest mingled with the great and substantial things of faith and godliness: Nor would the forms of question and answer be ever dressed up in the language of particular parties. Where children are taught all these distinctions, these lesser differences with zeal, and engaged in these parties betimes, it hath done much injury to christianity in the several nations that profess the religion of Christ. Children have been made zealous lutherans, calvinists, episcopalians, presbyterians, independents, baptists, before they have been made christians; and it hath had an unhappy influence to kindle and maintain the fire and fury of parties, and to banish and destroy charity and love among those who agree in the necessary and most important things of religion*.
All the most necessary points should be taught first and others afterwards. And it may be most proper that when these lesser differences of opinion are taught, they should be represented to the child as things not necessary to their salvation; and consequently that persons of very different opinions in these things may be very good christians and accepted of God. By this means the
* Here let it be observed, that I do not mention protestantism and popery as some of those lesser differeuces among christians which children need not be acquainted with, especially where the popish religion is practised, and where tender minds of children are in danger of being infected by it. For popery is the religion of Anti-christ, and therefore I can hardly call it christianity. In general indeed it includes and contains the christian faith, but it is so shameful a corruption of it by so many mixtures of error, and introduces so many traditions and inventions and decrees of men to join with scripture as the rule of religion, that children shoul early be warned against it. On the other hand childreu should as early be taught what is the great and fundamental principle of the protestant religion, and that is, that the word of God alone is a sufficient rule both of our faith and practice.
seeds and principles of these great christian duties of charity and love and forbearance would be inlayed in the hearts of youth. And I might add also that these lesser things of religion would then be in great measure left to the choice and determination of persons in their advanced years, when their understandings are better able to pass a judgment on these points, while the most early catechisms contain only those most important things wherein the generality of christians are agreed.
I. Caution. Not that I would have catechisms written in so very loose and general a manner, as to neglect the great and glo.. ous doctrines of the incarnation of the Son of God, the sacrifice and atonement of Christ for sin, and the promised aids of the sanctifying Spirit. It is granted indeed that the principles of the religion of nature and reason are first in the order of things, and are also more easy to be understood than the principles of revelation and christianity, and therefore they should begin the child's catechism; yet these doctrines of christian revelation ought certainly to be inserted in the form of sound words as early children can be supposed to understand them, because I take them to be the peculiar articles and glories of our christian faith and hope.
II. Caution. Nor is it at all amiss in parents to train up their children in their own forms of worship, whether they be lutheran or calvinist, conformist, or non-conformist, pædo-baptist or antipædo-baptist, at least so far as any of their peculiar opinions enter into their forms of public religion: It is hardly possible to avoid this; for religion cannot be practised but it must be in some particular mode, therefore children must be educated in some forms, and opinions, and modes of worship; and it is the duty of parents to educate them in those ways which they think nearest the truth and most pleasing to God. But all that I mean here is this, that as I would not have these particularities of different sects be made to enter into the public practice of religion farther than is needful, so it should be far the greatest care and solicitude of parents to teach their children christianity itself, rather than the particular and distinguishing tenets of sects or parties And be sure to let very little of this matter come into their younger catechisms. But I proceed to the fourth rule.
IV. Rule. Even among the important things of religion there is no need to enumerate all the particulars under any general with too great exactness. Where there are many special duties or doctrines belong to one general head, it is sufficient to reckon up three or four of the chief of them, and let these be such as are most proper for children to know, and most suited to the age and circumstances of childhood. So for instance, when we ask in the first, or young child's catechism, "What is your duty toward mau ?" It is enough to answer, "My duty towards
man is, to obey my parents, to speak the truth always, and be honest and kind to all." So in the second catechism, when we enquire concerning the worship which God requires of us, it is enough to mention thanks or praises for mercies received, prayers for mercies wanted, and diligent attention to his word; nor is there any need in this place to speak of adoration, confession, humiliation for sin, self-resignation, trust and dependence, though they may be all included in the large idea of worship.
We find that God himself, when he wrote his laws on tables of stone for the people of Israel, which was the infant state of the church, practised that very thing which I now propose. Instead of a long and particular detail of the duties of piety which belong to the first table, such as the adoration and fear of God, the love of God, and trusting in him, obeying his will, and submitting to his providences, he sums all these up in general in the first command, "Thou shalt have no other God before me:" Or,
Thou shalt have me for thy only God:" But he particularly forbids idolatry, and the abuse of God's name, and enjoins the holy sabbath of the seventh day, and all in distinct commands, because hewould inculcate these things in a special manner on the Israelites, as peculiarly proper for their state and circumstances.
If in the youngest catechisms we are to reckon up long catalogues of the particular doctrines and duties which are contained in the more general ones, the memories of children would be over-burdened, and their tender minds confounded with too great a variety; then their spirits are fatigued, and they grow tired of learning; whereas if they were led into an easy acquaintance with the great and general things of religion, and were taught only such particulars as are most suited to and proper for their age, learning would be rendered pleasant to them in childhood, and they would easily arrive at a more spacious and extensive knowledge in their growing years.
V. Rule. Among those easier points of religion, which are plain enough to be inserted into younger catechisms, chuse out rather such as are most practical. Do not incumber nor entangle the minds or memories of children with notions and speculations which are not so needful to influence their behaviour toward God or men. By making every thing tend toward practice which they find in their catechisms, children will be early led into this important truth, viz. That the chief business of religion is practice rather than notion, and this will have a happy effect upon their future opinions and conduct; whereas if their early catechisms are too much taken up in speculative points and controversial matters, these young creatures will imagine that religion is a business of notion, and controversy, and dispute, and that it has not so much to do about the government of their hearts or lives.
VI. Rule. Let not the answers, especially in the younger catechisms, consist of very long sentences: But if there happen to be a necessity of giving a pretty long answer to any question, let it be distinguished into shorter parts with such plainness and evidence, that the child may find apparent and sensible breaks and rests in it. This will much assist the young understanding, which is not able to comprehend the sense of one continued sentence prolonged into many lines; and it will be greatly helpful to the memory both in getting the answer by heart at first, and in the recollection of it upon every occasion. In all the longer answers in the catechism for children you will find this rule observed.
VII. Rule. Let the questions and answers stand in so easy, so natural, and so happy a connexion with each other, that every answer may become the occasion of some following question; and as much as may be, let it be the occasion of the very next question that follows. The memory of the catechiser will be greatly assisted hereby, and he will by this means have the question ready; and he will also appear to ask no questions but what are necessary for the child to answer: will seem to be under a necessity of learning an answer to every question, because the question itself rises from his own words.
Thus the child
VIII. Rule. Let the questions and answers be framed in such a manner that the child may find himself, and his own case, and his own interest concerned in them all the way: I would advise therefore that at least in the questions of the younger cate chisms they should frequently use the pronouns you and your, as, What must you do to be saved? And the answer should as often use the words I, and my, and mine; viz. I must be sorry for my sins, &c. I think this form of instruction will impress children much more sensibly, and lead them sooner to practical godliness, than if the catechism speaks only in the third person concerning mankind in general; for whatsoever we speak concerning man or men, children will hardly think themselves so much concerned in it.
IX. Rule. Upon this account I think the very frame and order of things in younger catechisms, should be so composed as that children may be led into inward and practical religion as fast as the knowledge of it is let into their minds: Let them be acquainted with their duty to God immediately upon their being led into the knowledge of him: As soon as they are taught what sin is, they should be convinced that they are sinners, and have need of a Saviour; and at the same time as they are informed who this Saviour is, and what he does for our salvation, they should be told also what is their duty with regard' to him, and what they are to expect from him, or from God for his sake. The most natural view and order of things in which the christian
religion can be represented usefully to the minds of children, seems to be this that follows,
First, Let them be taught that God is their Maker, and that they are made on purpose to know and serve him, and be happy in his love. Then let them be led to seek the knowledge of God, and their duty, out of his word or the holy scriptures ; for to learn it by the light of nature is too bard a task for young children. When you have shewed them who God is, and what is their duty to God himself, and to man by the command of God, let them then have some notice and conviction that they have not fulfilled their duty, but that they have broken the law of God, and are fallen under his anger. And here may be introduced the doctrine of original sin in a brief manner as far as the child can understand it; but in the very first catechism it is hardly necessary for a young child of four years old.
Then comes in naturally that great question, How can we hope to be saved from the anger of God? And thus the doctrine of the gospel comes necessarily into sight, viz. The incarnation of Christ, and his death in the room and stead of sinners; the duty of repentance for sin: the belief and hope of pardoning mercy from God for the sake of the sufferings of Christ, &c. And when children are a little elder, in the second catechism, we may proceed to a larger and more particular account of the person of Christ, of his ascension to heaven, his intercession and his government there, of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, and our particular obedience due to him. After this it is reasonable to shew the child his inability to fulfil these duties by his own strength, and lead him into the promised aid of the holy Spirit as far as his young understanding can receive it, together with the other means and helps with which God has furnished us in order to assist us in our way to heaven, viz. The bible, ministers and sacraments.
And when we have thus done the will of God in this world, it is necessary to bring death into sight, and the existence of the soul after death, and Christ's coming to judgment to call all the world to account for their behaviour in this life: And to let children know that the effects and consequents of this judgment will be the eternal happiness of the righteous, and the everlasting punishment of the wicked. These future transactions are usually the most powerful motives to religion in the present life, and therefore it is fit children should be acquainted with them betimes.
Now when these things are comprized in about four and twenty questions in the first catechism for infancy, and in about seventy or eighty in the second*, the child will have had a
*Note, In the preface to the second, or child's catechism, I have shewn that there are about twenty-six questions and answers which may be omitted in