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The religion which Christ hath revealed to the world, is by his grace and blessing settled and established among us, so as to be made the religion of the kingdom in general and therefore all that are born in it, are, or ought to be, according to his order or institution, soon after baptized, and so made his disciples, or Christians by profession. And the church takes security of those who thus bring a child to be baptized, that when it comes to be capable of it, it shall be instructed in the Catechism, which she for that purpose hath set forth, containing all the principles of that religion into which it was baptized. But notwithstanding this hath been neglected for many years, whereby it is come to pass that the far greatest part of the people in this kingdom know little or nothing of the religion they profess, but only to profess it as the religion of the country where they live; they may perhaps be very zealous for it, as all people are for the religion in which they are born and bred, but take no care to frame their lives according to it, because they were never rightly informed about it; or, at least, not soon enough, before error or sin hath got possession of them, which one or other of them commonly doth before they are aware of it; for they are always as children tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive, Eph. iv. 14. And whatsoever sin gets dominion over them, there it reigns and domineers in their mortal bodies, so that they obey it in the lusts thereof, in spite of all that can be said to them out of God's own word; for they are no way edified by any thing they hear, in that the foundation is not first laid upon which they should build up themselves in that most holy faith that is preached to them. The word they hear is as seed that falls by the way side, or upon a rock, or else among thorns, and so never comes to perfection; their hearts not being prepared beforehand, and rightly disposed
for it, by having the principles of the doctrine of Christ first infused into them.
This therefore being the great cause of that shameful decay of the Christian religion that is so visible among us, we can never expect to see it repaired, unless the great duty of catechising be revived, and the laws that are made about it be strictly observed all the kingdom over, as most certainly they ought to be, not only as they are the laws both of the church and state under which we live, but likewise for that they are grounded upon the word of God himself, who expressly commands the same thing by his apostle, saying, Fathers, provoke not your children to wrath, but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
For here, by nurture, we are to understand, as the Greek word wandía signifies, that discipline which parents ought to exercise over their children, to prevent their falling into, or continuing in any wicked course. And by the admonition of the Lord, is meant the catechising, or putting them in mind of the Lord Jesus Christ, and of what he would have them believe and do, that they may be saved. For the original word YOUσla, which we translate admonition, properly signifies catechising. (Kaτnxíčew voudeteÏV, Hesych.) And therefore to catechise or instruct children in the knowledge of God and our Lord Jesus Christ, is a duty here laid upon all parents by Almighty God himself; and all that neglect to educate or bring up their children in the admonition of the Lord, by catechising or teaching them the principles of his religion, they all live in the breach of a plain law, a law made by the supreme Lawgiver of the world, and must accordingly answer for it at the last day.
Wherefore all that are sensible of the great account, which they must give of all their actions, at that time, to the Judge of the whole world, cannot but make as much conscience of this as of any duty whatsoever, so
as to use the utmost of their care and diligence, that their children may grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and so be wise unto salvation. Neither is this any hard matter for those to do, who live in the communion of the church, having such a catechism or summary of the Christian religion drawn up to their hands, which is easy both for parents to teach, and for children to learn: and yet so full and comprehensive, that it contains all things necessary for any man to know in order to his being saved. As you may clearly see if you do but cast your eye upon the method and contents of it, which may be all reduced to these five heads; the Baptismal Vow, the Apostles' Creed, the Ten Commandments, the Lord's Prayer, and the Doctrine of the Sacraments ordained by our Lord Christ.
It begins where a child begins to be a Christian, and therefore hath a Christian name given him, even at his baptism, wherein he was made a member of Christ, a child of God, and an inheritor of the kingdom of heaven; which great privileges belong to all that are baptized, and to none else. None else being in the number of Christ's disciples; for our Lord Christ, a little before his ascension into heaven, left orders with his apostles, and in them with all that should succeed in the ministry of the church to the end of the world, to make all nations his disciples, by baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, as the original words plainly import, Matt. xxviii. 19. And therefore as people of all nations are capable of being made his disciples, so none now are, nor ever can be made so any other way, than by being baptized according to his order. But they who are not thus made his disciples by being baptized unto him, are not the members of Christ; and if they be not the members of Christ, they cannot be the children of God, nor have any right to the kingdom of heaven, that being promised only to such as believe and are baptized, Mark xvi. 16. And our Saviour himself elsewhere also saith, That except a
man be born again of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God, John iii. 5. Whereby we may perceive the great necessity of this sacrament, where it may be had, as our church observes in her Office for the ministration of it to such as are of riper years.
It is to be farther observed, that when our Saviour ordained baptism to be the way or means of admitting persons into his church, or the congregation of his disciples, lest we should think, as some have done, that he meant it only of those who are of riper years, he used the most general terms that could be invented, requiring that all nations should be baptized; and if all nations, then children also, which are a great, if not the greatest part of every nation. And accordingly his church hath always baptized children as well as adult persons: when any who were come to years of discretion were willing and desirous to become Christ's disciples, that they might learn of him the way to heaven, they were made so by being baptized; and if they had children, they were also baptized at the same time with their parents and so were the children which were afterwards born to them; they also were baptized soon after they were born. And that it is our Saviour's pleasure that children also should be brought into his church, appears likewise in that when his disciples rebuked those who brought children to him, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of heaven, Mark x. 14.
But seeing they who are thus baptized according to the institution of Christ, are thereby made his disciples, and in him the children of God, it is necessary they should then promise to believe, and live from that time forward according as he hath commanded; which promise therefore all that are grown up, always used to make every one in his own person, and for that purpose were, and ought to be catechised beforehand, and put in mind of what they were to promise when they were baptized; and therefore were called Catechumens.
But children not being capable of making any such promise themselves in their own persons, they were always admitted and required to do it by their guardians, that is, by their godfathers and godmothers, which brought and offered them to be baptized; and are therefore obliged to take care that they be afterwards catechised, or instructed in the principles of that religion into which they were admitted, and put in mind of the promise which they then made of framing their lives according to it.
This promise therefore, which children make at their baptism by their sureties, and which is implied in the very nature of the sacrament, whether they have any sureties or no, consists of three general heads.
First, That they will renounce the devil and all his works, the pomps and vanities of this wicked world, and all the sinful lusts of the flesh.
Secondly, That they will believe all the Articles of the Christian faith.
Thirdly, That they will keep God's holy will and commandments, and walk in the same all the days of their life.
Which three things, under which the whole substance of the Christian religion is contained, being all promised by children when they are baptized into it, it is absolutely necessary that they be afterwards put in mind, so soon as they are capable, of the promise which they then made, and of the obligation which lies upon them to perform it: for otherwise it can never be expected that they should either do, or so much as know it; whereas the instructing them in this the first part of the Catechism, will prepare and dispose them for the understanding all the rest.
Particularly the Apostles' Creed, which is next taught them, containing all those articles of the Christian faith, which they promise to believe, and nothing else; nothing but what is grounded upon plain texts of Scripture, and hath been always believed by the whole catho