« PreviousContinue »
s body of Christ ;" in which good work, some of course were stated teachers, or, to use the Apos tle's own expression, “ Catechisers in the word;' others taught or catechised. For catechising signifies in Scripture, at large, instructing persons in any matter, but especially in religion: And thus it is used, Acts xviii. 25, where you read, man was instructedin the
way of the Lord;" and Luke i. 4, where again you read, “ That thou “mayestknow the certainty of those things wherein “thou hast been instructed." The original word, in both places, is catechised.
But, as the different advances of persons in knowledge, made different sorts of instruction requisite; so, in the primitive Church, different sorts of teachers were appointed to dispense it. And they who taught so much only of the Christian Doctrine, as might qualify the hearers for Christian Communion, had the name of Catechists appropriated to them; whose teaching being usually, as was most convenient, in a great measure by way of question and answer; the name of Catechism hath now been long confined to such instruction, as is given in that form. But the method of employing a particular set of men in that work only is in most places laid aside. And I hope you will not be losers, if they, who are appointed to the higher Ministries of the Church, attend to this also.
Under the darkness of Popery, almost all religious instruction was neglected.“ Very few," to use the words of one of our Homilies, “the most simple people, were taught the Lord's “Prayer, the Articles of the Faith, or the Ten “Commandments, otherwise than in Latin, which
they understood not;" 4 so that one of the first necessary steps taken towards the Reformation, in
(2) Eph. iv. 12.
(3) Gal. vi. 6. (4) Homily against Rebellion, Part 6.
this country, was a general instruction, that parents and masters should first learn them in their own tongue, then acquaint their children and servants with them :5 which three main branches of Chris. tian duty, comprehending the sum of what we are to believe, to do, and to petition for, were soon after formed, with proper explanation of each, into a Catechism. To this was added, in process of time, a brief account of the two Sacraments; all together making up that very good, though still improvable, form of sound words, which we
And, that it may be used effectually, the laws of the land, both ecclesiastical and civil, require not only Ministers to instruct their parishioners in it, but parents, and masters and mistresses of families, to send their children apd servants to be instructed; meaning, evidently, unless they mean some other more convenient provision to answer the same end. For, promoting religious knowledge and practice is not only the express design of all church government, but a matter (would to God it were well considered) of great importance to the State also ; since neither private life can be happy, nor the public welfare secure for any long time, without that belief of the doctrines and observance of the duties of Christianity, for which catechising the young and ignorant, lays the firmest foundations.
It must be owned the Catechism of our Church is, as it ought to be, so clear in the main, as to need but little explaining, all things considered. But then, it is also, as it ought to be, so short, as to leave much room for setting forth the particulars comprehended under the general heads; for confirming both these by reason and Scripture; and for imprinting the whole on the consciences and af
(5) See Wakes's Dedication of his Commentary on the Church Catechism.
(6) 2 Tim. i. 13.
fections of the learners. This, therefore, I shall endeavour to do, in the sequel of these discourses, as clearly and as familiarly as I am able.
In the nature of the thing, nothing new and curious ought to have any place in such an exposition, as indeed such matters ought to have little place in any public teaching of God's word; but least of all, where only the plain fundamental truths of our common faith are to be taught, confirmed, and recommended in a plain way. And yet, as these truths are, of all others, the most ne. cessary; the plainest things, that can be said about them, may deserve the attention of all sorts of persons; especially as it is but too possible, that some of all sorts may never have been taught suffi. ciently, even the first principles of religion; and that many may by no means have sufficiently retained, and considered since, what they learnt in their early years; but preserving scarce more in their minds than the bare words, if so much, may be little the better, if at all, for the lessons of their childhood. To which it might be added, that every one hath need in a greater degree or less, if not to be informed, yet to be reminded and excited.
Let me beg, therefore, that all who have cause to hope they may receive benefit, would attend when they are able; and that all who have children or servants, would bring or send them. This is not a day of business. It ought not to be a day of idle amusements. It is appointed for the public Forship of God, and learning of his will. This is one of the hours of his worship; it is that part of the day in which you are most of you liberty, than you are in any other. And what will you say for yourselves hereafter, if, when you have the most entire leisure, you chose rather to do any thing or nothing, than to serve your Maker, and improve in the knowledge of your duty ? Never was there more danger of being infected with evil of every sort, from conversation in the world. Surely, then, you shouldendeavour to fortify yourselves, and those who belong to you, with proper antidotes against it. And wher
And where will you find better, than in the house of God? But particularly I both charge and beg you, children, to mark diligently what I shall say to you; for all that you learn by rote will be of no use, unless you learn also to understand it. The exposition, which you are taught along with your Catechism, will help your understanding very much, if you mind it as you ought; and what you will hear from me may be a yet further help. For, if there should be some things in it above your capacities, yet I shall endeavour to the best of my power, that most things may be easy and plain to you. And, I entreat you, take care that they be not lost upon you. You are soon going out into the world, where you will hear and see abundance of what is evil. For Christ's sake, lay in as much good, in the mean while, as you can, to guard you against it.
But, indeed, it behoves us all, of whatever or station we be, to remember that the belief and practice of true religion are what we are every one equally concerned in. For, without them, the greatest person upon earth will, in a very few years, be completely miserable; and with them, the meanest will be eternally happy. “O hear ye “ this, all ye people; ponder it, all ye that dwell “ in the world; 'high' and low, rich and poor, “ one with another."7 “Apply your hearts to instruction, and
your ears to the words of know
“ For whoso findeth wisdom, findeth “ life, and shall obtain favour of the Lord. But “ he that sinneth against her, wrongeth his own “ soul; all they that hate her, love death.”9
(7) P. xlix. 1, 2. (8) Prov. xxiii. 12. (9) Prov. viii. 35, 36.
Privileges of Baptism.
THE Catechism of our Church begins, with a prudent condescension and familiarity, by asking the introductory questions, “Whatis your Name?" and, “ Who gave you this Name?" which lead very naturally the person catechised to the mention of his Baptism, at which time it was given him Not that giving a Name is any necessary part of Baptism; but might have been done either before or afterwards, though it hath always been done then, as indeed it was likely that the first public opportunity would be taken for that purpose. But besides, it was no uncommon thing in ancient times, that when a person entered into the service of a new master, he had a new name bestowed on him; whence perhaps the Jews might derive the practice of naming the child, when it was circumcised, it being then devoted to the service of God. The first Christians, in imitation of them, would of course do the same thing, for the same reason, when it was baptized; and no wonder that we continue the practice. For it might be a very useful one, if persons would but remember, what it tends to remind them of, that they were dedicated to Christ, when their Christian Name was given them; and would make use of that circumstance frequently to recollect those promises, which were then solemnly made for them; and which they have since confirmed, or are to confirm and make personally for themselves. Without performing these, we are Christians not in deed, but in name only; and shall greatly dishonour that name, while we bear it and boast of it:
Our baptismal Name is given us, not by our Pa