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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 might 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 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,
and should run through the scripture in a short account both of remarkable persons and things: And as I keep my eye on the capacities of children, it should be very plain, and have as few hard words in it as possible. Then it will be pleasant to young minds, when it consists of short and various incidents or stories which employ and delight the fancy. As it begins at the creation of all things, so it should run down to the days of the apostles and the setting up the kingdom of Christ among men, which is as far as the history of scripture reaches. It is true, this field is so very large, that whosoever writes such a catechism for children must necessarily leave out many worthy names of men which should not be forgotten, and a multitude of things which one could wish might be inserted: And I am so well assured of the great usefulness of instructing children and young persons in the transactions of scripture, that I have composed a much larger summary of the sacred history by way of question and answer, which lies by me, and perhaps may hereafter see the light*. But the design of the present catechism for the instruction of tender years must limit it to a very narrow compass. Many valuable monuments of sacred antiquity must be omitted, lest the fancy of children be overwhelmed and cloyed, as well as their memory over-burdened, especially considering they are learning some catechism of the principles of religion at the same time.
The special parts of the sacred history which should be inserted into these two catechisms are chiefly such as these, viz.
1. Those that will naturally lead the child into the knowledge of God as the Maker, the Governor, and the Judge of the world: Therefore there should be mentioned several of the works of God, as the creation of all things, the interest of providence in the affairs of men, and particularly the rewards of the righteous, and the punishments of the wicked.
2. Those parts of history that are most necessary or useful in order to understand the doctrine of the gospel and the religion of Christ the better; such are, the transactions with Adam in his creation and in his fall, the promise of the Messiah to Abraham, the conduct of God towards the Jews in their travels from Egypt to Canaan, some of the laws and ordinances which he gave them by the hand of Moses, the doctrine of sacrifices and the priesthood, the care of God for his chosen people of Israel under their judges and their kings, their sins and the punishment of them, their captivity in Babylon and restoration to their own land, the life, miracles, death and resurrection of Christ the Son of God, his commission to his apostles to preach
*This bath been published, entitled, a Short View of the whole Scripture
the gospel, and their amazing success in converting both Jews and Gentiles.
3. There should be inserted also some of those incidents of the Old Testament which are rehearsed in the new to some very considerable and valuable purposes in the christian religion; such are the affairs of Noah, Abraham, Jacob, Moses and Aaron, Joshua and David, Elijah and Elisha, Jonah and Daniel, &c.
4. Such as will give occasion to a child easily to draw some moral or religious lesson by plain and short inferences, and particularly such as relate to parents and to children, in which their stage of life hath a very peculiar interest. Therefore it may be proper to insert the carriage of Cain to his brother, and that of Ham, Shem and Japheth to their father, and of Joseph to his brethren; the carriage of Eli to his sons, the characters of Samuel and Josiah, of Timothy and of Christ himself in their younger years. For the same reason it is fit to mention the rebellion and death of Absalom, the leprosy which was inflicted on Gehazi, and death on Ananias and Sapphira for telling a lie, the slaughter of the children that mocked Elisha by a bear, &c. that children may be warned against those sins to which they are most liable.
5. Such histories should have some place here as are most universally known by all christians, and are most frequently mentioned in conversation, and taught in religious families; especially if they have any thing marvellous or extraordinary in them; for this more sensibly attracts the minds of children and gives them most delight in learning. Upon this account in the Old Testament the books of Genesis and Exodus may perhaps have rather a larger share in these catechisms.
It may be observed also in the description of the character of a person we need not always use that character which is most considerable in itself, but that which will most sensibly strike the minds of children: And so in the description of places we need say little or nothing of their geographical situation which would be useless to children, but we should rather describe them by the most remarkable circumstance of scripture history that related to them. Nineveh is the great city where Jonah was sent to preach, and Antioch should be described as the city where the disciples of Christ where first called christians. In like manner in the stories or narratives, we may better neglect some action really more considerable in itself to insert another which some readers may think less considerable, if it strikes young minds more powerfully and agreeably, and may also be of more use to children. There is another rule which may be observed in oomposing the catechism of names, and the historical catechism, viz. In th catechism of names it is best to put the name of the person into the question, and give the character of the person in the answer;
as, Question, Who was Adam? Answer, The first man that God made; which I judge more proper for children than to make the mere name to be the answer to the question; for this would burden and tire their infant memories as soon as they can speak, with mere Hebrew words and hard names, which they seldom pronounce plain and true; nor would the parents asking the question give them so explicit a knowledge of the character of the person as if they are required to remember and speak it themselves by way of answer.
In the historical catechism which may be begun to be learned a year or two afterward, we may sometimes change this order, and put the character of the person into the question, and the name into the answer: As Question, Who was the first man that God made? Answer, Adam: supposing that by this time children are well acquainted with the hard names, and can pronounce them plain. And besides, this order of things may give a better introduction to the next question which relates to some remarkable action of the person mentioned.
In the bistorical catechism there might be annexed one text of scripture at least to every answer; but we need only name the book, chapter and verse, without citing the words at length, which would take up too much room, and be less useful to children in their youngest age of life. But when they come to six or seven years old or more, and are able to find out any text of scripture by the name of the book chapter and verse, then it will be a useful and entertaining exercise for them to seek out the complete history of all those persons in the bible who are mentioned in their catechism.
To conclude, since none of these catechisms are very large they may be easily gotten by heart by thirteen or fourteen years of age, and even before they are treasured up in the memory, they should be often read by children; and perhaps also elder persons, whose knowledge is but small, may profit by them. But what other rules are needful for the more profitable use of these catechisms, shall be inserted in the particular prefaces that stand before them; to which I refer the reader.
The catechims for children being so short, it was not possible to insert in them all the particular sins and follies to which that age is liable; and yet perhaps nothing would be a better guard against these follies and sins, than to have them in a particular detail and description set before the eyes of children, with a word of caution against them drawn both from reason and scripture; this is done by way of question and answer, not to be imposed on children to learn it by heart, but to read it frequently; and I have called it, A Preservative from Sin and Folly.
After all our studies and cares in every age to make the great things of God intelligible and plain to the younger and the more
ignorant part of mankind, there will be still too much ignorance of Ged, and Christ, and religion, found even in a nation blessed with liberty and the gospel; it is needful that parents, and masters, and ministers, should labour in prayer, as well as in writing and teaching, that God may succeed all our cares with a divine blessing, that he may print the great and necessary truths of christianity on the souls of children and youth by his own Spirit, that he may write the duties of it in their hearts, and make them legible in their lives. O may the rising generation in Great Britain, have their minds and consciences so divinely inlayed with the sacred articles of our holy religion, that they may stand the shock of temptation in this day of growing infidelity, and stand up in future times to profess, defend and adorn the gospel of Christ; and may these little unambitious labours of mine for the use of children and babes be so far blessed of heaven, as to bear some happy influence toward diffusing the beams of divine light in a dark world, for the glory of our Redeemer, and the eternal salvation of souls. Amen.
Advertisement to Teachers.-Together with the second edition of this book the several catechisms are at the same time also printed in small books by themselves for the use of children according to their different ages. But it was thought proper before they were thus printed and more diffused in the world, to subject them once more to the careful examination of several worthy ministers; that no word nor phrase might be left in them which might create any difficulty to the understandings or consciences of children, or which might be offensive to any of their parents or teachers; supposing that they hold the common chief protestant doctrines which are generally professed amongst us, though they may differ in their opinion in lesser things. This is the reason why some few expressions are altered and made plainer, and I hope my readers will agree that they are every where changed for the better, and there will be no occasion for any more changes in any following edition. Yet if any persons dislike a word or phrase, they may put another in the room of it.
Advertisement to Leaders.-If any persons, younger or elder, have a mind to pass a right judgment how far any of these catechisms may be necessary or useful to themselves, let them ask themselves the questions while they hide the answer from their eyes; or let two of them ask each other the questions by turns, and then it will appear they have need to learn the answer of these catechisms wheresoever they are not able to give a tolerable answer of themselves.