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The work now submitted to the American reader has been prepared and published in its present form, with the hope of contributing, by the instrumentality of the CHURCH CATECHISM, to its great object, the inculcation of SCRIPTURAL TRUTH. The instructions of this publication were designed, in the first instance, for the use of Sunday-schools, as will be seen from the preface to the English edition. It was, however, as the author truly stated, “equally calculated for general use," and suitable for the purpose of a “ Manual of Divinity for young persons." In a subsequent edition, while the instruction of Sunday-schools was still kept in view, many alterations and additions appear to have been made, in order to adapt the work still more to general
The measure of approbation and “ liberal patronage" which it has received from the English public, may be estimated from the fact, that four editions of it have been published in England, two of them within the last five years.
The American editor, desirous of promoting the proper and intelligent use of the Church Catechism, and sensible, moreover, that a plain :summary of Christian doctrine and duty is much needed, both by the young and by many of mature age, has gladly availed himself of the present publication to provide for both these objects. In his opinion it is eminently adapted, both to render the study of the Church Catechism more profitable and interesting, and to inculcate clear and satisfactory views of “the first principles of the oracles of Christ,” by means of that excellent summary. No better basis could probably be found for a series of instructions in the principles of Christianity. Bolo
The manner in which the present work is to be used will vary with the age and attainments of the reader. In classes of very young persons the matter in the large type may be studied, with so much of the Scripture reference as circumstances may
render expedient. To those of more advanced age, whether individual readers or classes, the whole of these references should be diligently studied and compared with the language of the Catechism. In order to furnish further aid to such study, and to invite to it all who desire to be intelligently instructed in the great truths of Christianity, the American editor has added a series of notes for the further elucidation of points especially important, or requiring explanation. * In order to render these as valuable as possible, and to embrace as much solid instruction as could be furnished in a limited space, they have been generally selected or compiled from standard authors. With the exception of such as are very brief, they are placed at the end of the sections, so as not to interfere with the use of simpler matter, in Catechetical classes and Sunday-schools.
Besides the notes, there have been in the American edition, occasional, though not frequent nor extensive, additions to the body of the work. The necessary changes of phraseology have been made wherever the American Prayer-book differs from the English, together with occasional alterations or omissions where in the judgment of the editor it was desirable.
The selections, (judiciously and appropriately made,) from Scripture, which occupy so large a portion of this work, constitute a peculiar and most valuable feature in its character. The object of every exposition of the Church Catechism is to explain and set forth more fully the truths which it embodies, but it happens with many that the explanation itself needs some subsidiary means to make it pass beyond the memory, into the understanding and the affections. The difficulty in the use of such works and the remedy for it are stated by Bishop Law,t in a brief treatise on “ the nature and necessity of catechising," as follows :-“ Whatever form of words is used in this case, when it once becomes a form, and is got by heart, it comes al
* The only note to the English edition is that from Wheatly on the col. lects. (Section on the Liturgy.)
| Edmund Law, Bishop of Carlisle,
most to the same thing: and our own, as was said, may serve as well as any, if persons be but duly versed and exercised therein. Here is the point ; and all that is wanting, is only first to understand the words and their construction so, as to lay a sure groundwork, to get the main substance or prime doctrine of religion inculcated into our Catechumen; and, when this is done 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 himself, 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 author sometimes refers to passages of Scripture which he does not quote. Sometimes, where the passage is long, the parts to which reference is made are quoted, those intermediate being indicated by a dash (-). Generally, 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."