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whole scheme of the christian religion, both in the doctrines and the duties of it, let into his mind in a short and compendious manner in each of these catechisms; and this is sufficient to direct and influence the chief part of his practice in those younger years of life, till growing faculties shall render him fit for further and deeper acquaintances with the doctrines of christianity.
For this reason I beg leave to say, that the catechism composed by the assembly of divines, as comprehensive and valuable as it is, yet is not so fit for young children, not only because it is too long for their memories, as containing above a hundred questions and answers, and some of them too are pretty long and hard to be understood; but because there is scarce any thing practical taught the child till he has learned more than one third part of it. This book is certainly less proper for children, because the highest mysteries of christianity, and all the more speculative and sublime doctrines of the gospel are laid down in the first part of it, as far as question xxxixth, which perhaps takes up a whole year's toil and labour of memory before the child is taught any thing practical, either in its duty to God or its duty to man: As though a child need not be taught God's commandments nor his own duty, till he hath learned the infinity and eternity of God, the doctrine of the blessed Trinity, the decrees of God, the covenant of works made with Adam as our head, our original sin and misery by the fall, the doctrine of election and redemption, the constitution of the person and the offices of Christ, his humiliation and exaltation, together with the application of his redemption by the operation of the holy Spirit, the benefits of justification, adoption and sanctification, and the happiness of believers at their death and resurrection; for all these things are introduced as matters of faith before any rules of duty are mentioned.
Though it be granted that these are glorious parts of our religion, and may be taught as soon as a child can understand them, yet I humbly conceive it cannot be necessary to withhold a child from the knowledge of his duty to God and man till he hath learned all these sublime doctrines. It seems to me a much more natural method first to shew the child the law of God, with his duty to obey it, and then to convince him that he has broken this holy law, and that he is exposed to God's displeasure here and hereafter: Now upon this view the gospel of Christ comes in as a most glorious relief, and the child will understand and see how much he hath need of such a gospel and such a Saviour, and he will attend with more serious diligence to the
the first teaching of it, if parents thinks it too long, and I have marked them out for that purpose: By this means the second catechism will be reduced to acous fifty questions. But let the other twenty-six be learned before the child proceeds to the assembly's, which I call the youth's catechism.
name of Jesus and the blessed discoveries of grace, when he finds he is exposed to the just anger of God for his sins, if he does not betake himself to this relief.
X. Rule. It may be proper enough in the larger of these catechisms, or those which are composed for a youth of twelve or fourteen years of age, that the whole scheme or method be different from those which are framed for mere infancy or childhood. So the assembly's catechism is written in a different method from those which I have composed for younger years, though the same religion and the same gospel is exhibited in both. By such a diversity of methods young persons will see the same truths set in a different light: And it may be of considerable use, especially to those of a brighter genius and better parts, to turn their religion on all sides and learn how beautiful it is in every situation, to observe how happily all parts correspond with one another, and all conspire in the glory of God, the honour of Christ, and the salvation of sinful man. But I think for all the younger catechisins it is much better they should be formed in the very same method, lest while children are so very young and ignorant, variety of methods should embarrass rather than enlighten them: For this reason I have framed my two first catechisms on the very same plan.
XI. Rule. In those younger catechisms where the scheme and method is much the same, let the questions and answers be expressed in different forms of words, and the manners of enquiry and reply bear a little different turn, even though the sense may be the very same. This will have two considerable advantages in it,-1. The child will not be ready to intermingle the answers of the younger aud elder catechism together; which he would perpetually do if the questions were expressed in the same words, or if the answers begun in the same forms of speech. -2. The child will gain more knowledge of the things of religion and of the language of christianity, by having the same doctrines and duties set before him in different forms of speech, as his age and understanding advances. But if in composing two such catechisms any person should think there may be a necessity of repeating the very same question in the same words, then let the answer be exactly the same too: and then a child will be under no danger of mistake nor of intermingling one catechism with another.
XII. Rule. Let there be one or more well-chosen texts of scripture added to support almost every answer, and to prove the several parts of it. This will shew the child that we own the scripture or word of God to be the divine and supreme rule of our belief and practice, and that this catechism is borrowed from the bible, as the great source and original of our holy religion; this will make him know betimes that his catechisms are not to
be put in the room and place of the bible. And the words of men may be capable of mistakes, but the scripture is the only infallible and certain rule of revealed truth and christian knowledge. It will also have another good effect, and that is, it will by degrees lead the child into the understanding and remembrance of some of the most useful texts of scripture on which the chief articles of christianity are founded, and furnish bis tender mind with the rich treasure of the word of God. Yet in the very youngest catechism perhaps little children would find this addition of scripture too tiresome and tedious, nor would it be of any considerable use till they are old enough to compare the answers in the catechism with the words and sense of scripture, and to observe how one corresponds with the other; therefore I have omitted the scriptural proofs of the first catechism, though I have with diligence and care collected and added them to the second and in the Assembly's catechism, which is a catechism for youth, this is done largely in some editions of it.
XIII. Rule. When a catechism is framed for youth of twelve years old or upwards, there is no necessity that the terms and phrases which are used in it should be so plain and familiar as in those which are composed for children; and indeed it is better that the terms and language of scripture, such as justification, adoption, sanctification, &c. should be made use of here, partly because it may be supposed that these children may have acquired some notions of these things at this age by their religious education, and partly because it is necessary that by this time they should come to read the scriptures wherein these terms are used, with a greater degree of understanding; it is fit therefore that this sort of language, in which it hath pleased God to reveal divine things to men, should be made more familiar to them while they are growing up to manly age. This rule is observed in a good degree in the Assembly's Shorter Catechism, which I have here inserted in its order for the instruction of youth.
Yet is certain that in far the greatest number of christian families there is not care enough, or there is not skill enough in the parents or masters to explain these terms, and lead their children or servants into clear and easy ideas of divine things, as they are delivered to us in many words and phrases of scripture, or in the language of this comprehensive catechism; and it is for this reason that so many learned men have spent their time in writing expositions upon it. But it must be observed, that most of these expositions, instead of explaining the words used in the Assembly's Catechism, have enlarged upon the doctrines and duties of our holy religion, to give a more full and extensive view of all the parts and branches that belong it; among which Mr. Flavel's work is one of the best. Those who break the long
answers into pieces, and explain them in parts, are in my opinion of the greatest use to young persons. I think that which is said to be written by Dr. Wallis is of this kind; but they are all too long for children.
There are some persons who have imagined,that in order to render it easy for younger understandings and memories, they should throw their whole exposition into a great number of questions about every thing that relates to the doctrines contained in each answer of the Assembly's Catechism, and that the child should have nothing to remember, but only to answer yes or no : but I fear this is of no very great use to younger children, unless a reason or a scripture be added. Where the parent or master speaks almost all that is said in his asking the question, and the child has no more to answer than yes or no, it gives but small improvement to the understanding; for since there is but one right and one wrong answer, the child may happen to give the right answer often by guess, without any knowledge what the question means.
XIV. Rule. I have often thought that the shortest comment upon that catechism, and most useful for those who learn it by heart, might consist of a mere explication of the words and phrases which are more difficult to be understood, placed under every answer wherein those words are used. Such an exposition as this would very little increase the bulk or price of the catechism itself as it would also be very favourable and indulgent to the memory of learners. The particular rules proper to be observed in such an exposition are these:
1. As we suppose the youth that learn it to be twelve or fourteen years old, there will be no need of explaining the more common terms and language used in it, such as, the word of God, law, duty, rule, wisdom, power, &c. for they will be known at that age to all those who have had the advantage of a religious education.
2. There need be no explication given of those words which are directly and expressly explained in any of the following answers of the catechism, such as creation, providence, Christ's humiliation and exaltation, sacrament, baptism, Lord's-supper.
3. As for the words that may be used in different senses, or extend to many and various kinds of things, I think it is not necessary to shew in how many senses they may be taken, or how many things they extend to, but rather to declare briefly what is the sense of them as they stand in that very answer of the catechism; as for instance, the word sacrifice does not always mean an expiation for sin, but sometimes it signifies the offering of corn, wine, or oil, in a way of thanksgiving; and metaphorically it is used for our christian duties of praise to God and bounty to the poor; Heb. xiii. 15, 16. But since it is ap
in this catechism only to the sacrifice of Christ which atones for our sins, it is better to define it here, some living creature slain and offered up to God to answer for some offence committed against him: And it is my opinion that this way of explaining will lead an ignorant person in a shorter, plainer, and easier manner to understand the answers given in the catechism, than if there were a long detail of the various senses of the word.
4. There is a little difficulty how to interpret those terms or phrases which have been made matter of controversy amongst those very ministers and christians who approve of this catechism in general and teach it in their families. Now I think it best to let as few as possible of those controversies be intimated or awakened And let those few terms or phrases have their most general sense affixed to them, such as verges toward no extreme: And let them be explained in so moderate and catholic a signification as may not run high into the sentiments of any party, but may, as far as the words will bear it, be construed in such a meaning as we may reasonably suppose was approved by the whole venerable assembly who composed it, and such as is agreeable to far the greatest part of those who make use of this catechism to instruct their children. And yet after all I cannot forbear to wish, that some few expressions in it had been formed with a more catholic latitude, so as might have given less disgust to any pious minds, but inight have rendered it more universally acceptable to our nation.
5. There is another rule that ought to be observed also in explaining all the difficult terms and phrases, and that is, that if possible there might no hard word enter into the explication, but that all the terms used in the explication of the words might be much easier to be understood, and more plain and familiar than the terms and phrases which are explained.
XV. Rule. At the same time that the youngest catechism of the principles of religion is learned, the child may also begin to attain a little historical knowledge of the bible, by way of question and answer. This should be drawn up in as easy, plain and simple a style as can well be contrived. I confess the bible is so large a book, and contains so rich a variety of entertaining histories, and that from so early a date as the beginning of the world, that it is impossible all the necessary things of this kind can be crowded into so small a compass as to be imposed on the memories of children in their youngest years; I would propose therefore that two catechisms be formed: The first should be called a catechism of scripture-names, and it should contain nothing but the name of the person with one single character of him. This might be sufficient for the years of infancy.
The second which I call the historical catechism should be framed for children and youth from seven years old to fifteen,