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TO THE FIRST CATECHISM."
THE most general and the plainest principles of the christian religion are
contracted into so short a form in this first catechism, that they may be easily learned by heart by a child of moderate capacity at four or five years old: Where the understanding appears more bright and early the child may begin sooner. By this means young creatures may treasure up a brief scheme of religion in their memory sufficient for their own knowledge and practice at that age. The questions and answers are ranged in such order as may let the things of God into their minds in the easiest manner; and for this purpose they are described in the most obvious and familiar words and phrases.
Notwithstanding all the care that is taken in composing a catechism in the plainest language, yet it may cost the teacher some little pains to make the young child understand every word of it. But it is necessary the child should have some notion of the meaning of every answer before he proceeds to the next question, because every following question depends upon some former answer: And parents and teachers should use their utmost skill in leading the child into the meaning of every question when they ask it, and of every answer when the child repeats it, that the child may not hear and learn mere words and syllables instead of the great things of God and religion. Surely a child of four or five years old may easily learn one answer in the first catechism every week; and since there are but four and twenty questions in it, he may finish it in five or six months time; and he may grow very perfect both in the words and meaning by repeating it constantly once or twice every week till he be seven years old. If the young child can read before he has learned this catechism by heart, it may be useful for him to read it all over by way of lesson at the reading school every week while be is learning it, that he may take in the meaning of it the better, and that the answer may become familiar and easy to him.
When he can say the first catechism perfectly, he may once in a month at least read over the second till he be six or seven years old, and begins to commit it to memory; And by this means perhaps he may be allured to get it by heart long before his teachers require it of him.
It was not thought necessary to add the texts of scripture to support and prove the answers of this first short catechism, as it is done in the second; because the child who learns it, is supposed to be rather too young, to compare the catechism with all those scriptures, and to discern the conformity between them: Besides, it would take up too much time to employ a young child in learning all those scriptures, and withhold him too long from the second catechism. Yet it may not be amiss for the child sometimes when he reads over the second catechism, to read also the scriptures that stand as proofs of it; and this may be done even before he begins to learn it by heart as well as afterward; for these scriptures are such as contain the chief and most important principles of the christian religion, and therefore he should be acquainted with them betimes. And let children have early notice given them, that though such catechisms are composed by men for the easier conveyance of the knowledge of divine things into the minds of children, yet they are or should be all taken out of the word of God, for it is the word of God, and not the words of men, which must be the foundation and rule of their belief and their practice.
THE FIRST CATECHISM:
OR, THE CATECHISM FOR A YOUNG CHILD, TO BE BEGUN AT THREE OR FOUR YEARS OLD.
CAN you tell me, child, who made you?
Answer. The great God who made heaven and earth.
2. Q. What doth God do for you?
A. He keeps me from harm by night and by day, and is always doing me good.
Q. And what must you do for this great God who is so good to you? A. I must learn to know him first, and then I must do every thing to please him.
Q. Where doth God teach us to know him and to please him?
A. In his holy word, which is contained in the bible.
5. Q. Have you learned to know who God is?
A. God is a spirit; and though we cannot see him, yet he sees and knows all things, and he can do all things.
6. Q. What must you do to please God?
A. I must do my duty both toward God and toward man.
7. Q. What is your duty to God?
A. My duty to God is to fear and honour him, to love and serve him, to pray to him, and to praise him.
8. Q. What is your duty to man?
A. My duty to man is to obey my parents, to speak the truth always, and to be honest and kind to all.
9. Q. What good do you hope for by seeking to please God?
A. Then I shall be a child of God, and have God for my father and my friend for ever.
10. Q. And what if you do not fear God, nor love him, nor seek to please him?
A. Then I shall be a wicked child, and the great God will be very angry with me.
11. Q. Why are you afraid of God's anger?
A. Because he can kill my body, and he can make my soul miserable after my body is dead.
12. Q. But have you never done any thing to make God angry with you
A. Yes, I fear I have too often sinned against God, ond deserved his anger. 13. Q. What do you mean by sinning against God?
A. To sin against God is to do any thing that God forbids me, or not to do what God commands me.
14. Q. And what must you do to be saved from the anger of God which your sins have deserved ?
A. I must be sorry for my sins, I must pray to God to forgive me what is past, and serve him better for time to come.
15. Q. Will God forgive you if you pray for it?
A. I hope he will forgive me, if I trust in bis mercy, for the sake of what Jesus Christ has done, and what he has suffered.
16. Q. Do you know who Jesus Christ is ?
A. He is God's own Son, who came down from heaven to save us from our sins, and from God's anger.
17. Q. What has Christ done toward the saving of men ?
A. He obeyed the law of God himself, and bas taught us to obey it also.
18. Q. And what has Christ suffered in order to save men
A. He died for sinners who have broke the law of God, and had deserved to die themselves.
19. Q. Where is Jesus Christ now?
A. He is alive again, and gone to heaven to provide a place there, for all that serve God and love his Soo Jesus.
20. Q. Can you of yourself love and serve God and Christ?
A. No, I cannot do it of myself, but God will help me by his own Spicit if I ask him for it.
21. Q. Will Jesus Christ ever come again?
A. Christ will come again, and call me and all the world to account for what we have done.
22. Q. For what purpose is this account to be given?
A. That the children of God, as well as the wicked, may all receive according to their works.
23. Q. What must become of you if you are wicked?
A. If I am wicked, I shall be sent down to everlasting fire in hell, among wicked and miserable creatures.
24 Q. And whither shall you go if you are a child of God?
A. If I am a child of God, I shall be taken up to heaven, and dwell there with God aud Christ for ever.
TO "THE SECOND CATECHISM."
IN the age of childhood, at every three or four years of life, the under
standing seems to make a more sensible progress and more visible improvement, than it does perhaps in any three years afterwards, especially if it be assisted by the advantage of good education: And the reason is, because every thing is new to us in that early age. At seven or eight years old, therefore, the child may be capable of understanding and learning this second composure which I call, The Child's Catechism. It is a scheme of the christian religion, drawn up much in the same form and method as the former; but it is much enlarged, and comprehends many more particulars both of doctrine and duty.
When the child begins to learn the second Catechism, he should by no means lay aside the first, but be kept to repeat it once in a month, till he has Jearned the second quite through, and can say them both perfectly by heart. Let the child learn the second Catechism throughout, first without the scriptures, and by that time he is perfect in it, he will be perhaps ten years old or more: Then if the teacher please, let the child begin to learn the scriptures which are set down as proofs under every answer: For at this age, he may be capable of seeing the conformity or agreement, between the answer in his catechism, and the text of scripture which is brought to prove it.
In catechising him upon the scriptures, it is not so proper a method to bid him repeat all the proofs together under each answer: But take the answer into pieces, and enquire of him particularly, which scripture proves this part of the answer, and what scripture proves the next part and so onward. This will not only give a great relief to the child's memory, but it will much more improve his reason and understanding in religion; and it will help to confirm and establish him in that important truth, "that not the composures of men, but the scripture itself, is the rule of our religion.
For children who have weaker memories, or less leisure and advantage for learning, I do not advise that they should be confined to learn all the scriptures that belong to this catechism, before they proceed to the Assembly's. Parents and teachers should judge in this matter, and determine the lessons and labours of children, according to their different capacities: For as some children grow in bodily stature much faster than others, and they must have new garments more frequently, because they have outgrown the old, so in the improvements of the mind some children far exceed others; and those who are of the slowest growth, must dwell longer on their former lessons and catechisms, before they proceed to change them for new ones: And sometimes they must be indulged to skip over some lessons, which those who make swifter progress, may learn for their greater profit.
It may be complained indeed, that this Second Catechism itself is rather too large for the child at seven or eight years old, for it contains in it seventyfour questions, whereas that of the Assembly's, which is proposed to youth of twelve or thirteen years old, contains but one hundred and seven. But let it be observed that the answers are generally shorter, and the words much easier to be understood and remembered: And to make the matter still more unexceptionable, there is a line drawn all along in the margin, by those questions and answers, which may be omitted in teaching children of seven
or eight years old, and these amount to twenty-four: This will reduce the Catechism for that age to fifty questions. Then when they arrive at nine or ten years of age, they may learn the answers which were before omitted, and so become masters of the whole.
If this method be followed, there will be, as it were, three catechisms for three stages of childhood, each exceeding the other in length, in a more exact proportion to the growing years and memories of children, till at twelve or thirteen years they are are prepared to learn the Assembly's Catechism with greater improvement. But in this and all other methods of instruction which relate to children, much of the management and practice, must be left to the discretion and care of those who teach them, and all must be committed to the grace and blessing of God. AMEN.
THE SECOND CATECHISM:
OR, THE CATECHISM FOR CHILDREN, WHICH THEY MAY BEGIN AT SEVEN OR EIGHT YEARS OLD, ACCORDING TO THEIR DIFFERENT CAPACITIES.
EAR child, do you know what you are?
Answer. I am a creature of God, for he made me both body and soul.
"Is. xlv. 11, 12. Thus saith the Lord-I have made the earth, and created man upon it. Job x. 11. Thou hast clothed me with skin and flesh, and fenced me with bones and sinews. Zech. xii. 1. The Lord-who formeth the spirit of man within him."
r 2. Q. How do you know you have a soul?
A. Because I find something within me that can think and know, can wish and desire, can rejoice and be sorry, which my body cannot do.
"Job. xxxii. 8. There is a spirit in man.
Job xxxv. 11. Who teacheth us more than the beasts of the earth, and maketh us wiser than the fowls of heaven. Prov. xxiii. 7. As he thinketh in his heart, so is he. Prov. ii. 10. Knowledge is pleasant to thy soul. Is. xxvi. 8. The desire of our soul is to thy name. Ps. xxxv. 9. My soul shall be joyful in the Lord. Mat. xxvi, 38. My soul is exceeding sorrowful.
3. Q. Wherein doth your soul differ further from your body?
A. My body is made of flesh and blood, and it will die; but my soul is a spirit, and it will live after my body is dead.
See answer 1. "Luke xxiv. 59. A spirit hath not flesh and bones. Job xxxiv. 14, 15. If he gather to himself his spirit and bis breath, all flesh shall perish together, and man shall return again to dust. Ex. xii. 7. Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was; and the spirit-to God who gave it. Mat. x. 28. Fear not them who can kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul."
4. Q. For what purpose did God make you such a creature with a body and a soul?
A. To know him and serve him here on earth, that I may dwell with him and be happy hereafter in heaven.
What is written Is. xliii. 21. may be applied to all mankind, viz. "This people have I formed for myself, they shall, or should, shew forth my praise. Ps. Ixxiii. 24. Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory. Ps. xvi. 11. In thy presence is fuluess of joy.