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lic church, in all ages and places all the world over. Here are none of those private opinions and controverted points which have so long disturbed the church, and serve only to perplex men's minds, and take them off from the more substantial and necessary duties of religion, as we have found by woeful experience, which our church hath taken all possible care to prevent, by inserting no other articles of faith into the Catechism which her members are to learn, than what are contained in this Creed, received and approved of by the whole Christian world; and then acquainting them what they chiefly learn in it, even to believe in God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost, in whose name they were christened, and therefore must continue in this faith, or cease to be Christians.
The other thing which they who are baptized promise, is, that they will keep God's commandments, which therefore are next taught in the Catechism, without any mixture of human inventions or constitutions: those Ten Commandments, which the supreme Lawgiver himself proclaimed upon mount Sinai, and afterwards wrote with his own finger upon two tables of stone. These they are all bound to learn, because they are bound to keep them all, as they will answer it at the last day, when all mankind shall be judged by them.
But no man can keep these commandments without God's special grace, which we have no ground to expect, without praying to him for it. And therefore children are in the next place taught how to pray according to that form which Christ himself composed, and commanded us to say, whensoever we pray, Luke xi. 2. And as he who believes all that is in the Apostles' Creed, believes all that he need believe; and he that keeps all the Ten Commandments, doth all that he need to do; so he that prays this prayer aright, prays for all things which he can have need of: so that in this short Catechism, which children of five years old may learn,.
they are taught all that is needful for them, either to believe, or do, or pray for.
The last part of the Catechism is concerning the two sacraments which Christ hath ordained in his church, as generally necessary to salvation; that is to say, Baptism, and the Lord's Supper: both which our church hath there explained with such extraordinary prudence and caution, as to take in all that is necessary to be known of either of them, without touching upon any of the disputes that have been raised about them, to the great prejudice of the Christian religion.
Seeing therefore this Catechism is so full, that it contains all that any man needs to know, and yet so short, that a child may learn it: I do not see how parents can bring up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, better than by instructing them in it. I do not say, by teaching them only to say it by rote, but by instructing them in it, so that they may understand, as soon and as far as they are capable, the true sense and meaning of all the words and phrases in every part of it; for which purpose it will be necessary to observe these rules.
First, you must begin betime, before your children have got any ill habits, which may be easily prevented, but are not so easily cured. When children are baptized, being born again of water and of the Spirit, as the guilt of their original sin is washed away in the laver of regeneration, so that it will never be imputed to them, unless it break forth afterwards into actual transgressions; so they receive also the Spirit of God to prevent all such eruptions, by enabling them to resist the temptations of the world, the flesh, and the devil, to believe and serve God according as they then promised; so far at least, that sin shall not have dominion over them, that they should obey it in the lusts thereof, seeing now they are not under the law, but under the grace of Christ, Rom. vi. 12, 14. But that
the seeds of grace which were then sown in their hearts may not be lost or stifled, but grow up to perfection; great care must be taken that they may be taught so soon as they are capable to discern between good and evil, to avoid the evil and do the good, and to believe and live as they promised, when they were endued with grace to do it. Hast thou children? saith the Son of Sirach, instruct them, and bow down their neck from their youth, Ecclus. vii. 23. Give thy son no liberty in his youth, and wink not at his follies. Bow down his neck while he is young, and beat him on the sides while he is a child; lest he wax stubborn, and be disobedient unto thee, and so bring sorrow to thine heart, chap. xxx. 11, 12. Whereas he that gathereth instruction from his youth, shall find wisdom till his old age, chap. vi. 18. According to that of the wise man; Train up a child in the way that he should go; and when he is old, he will not depart from it, Prov. xxii. 6. As Timothy from a child had known the holy Scriptures, 2 Tim. iii. 15. And that was the reason that he was so expert in them when he became a man: which therefore that your children may also be, the first thing they learn must be their Catechism, where they are taught all the great truths and duties that are revealed in the holy Scriptures, as necessary to salvation.
But how can such parents do this that cannot read, nor say the Catechism themselves? This, I fear, is the case of too many among us. There are many who, having not been taught to read when they were young, neglect or think scorn to learn it afterwards, and so lose all the benefit and comfort which they might receive by reading of the holy Scriptures: but this, I confess, is not so necessary, especially in our church, where the holy Scriptures are so constantly read in public; that if people would as constantly come and hearken to them, they might be wise unto salvation, although they cannot read, as few heretofore could, at
least in the primitive times, when, notwithstanding they attained to the knowledge of God, and of their duty to him, as well as if they had been the greatest scholars in the world. But then, considering that they could not read, they supplied that defect by attending more diligently to what they heard out of God's holy word, and laying it up in their hearts, so that they understood all the principles of the Christian religion, and were able to instruct their children in the same, as well as if they could read. But this is not our case; for now there are many who can neither read, nor so much as say the Catechism, having never learned it themselves, and therefore cannot possibly teach it their children. Such as the Apostle speaks of, who when, for the time, they ought to be teachers, they have need that one teach them again, which be the first principles of the oracles of God, and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat, Heb. v. 12. And what must such do? They certainly, as they tender their own good, must be doubly diligent in the use of all means that may tend to their edification and instruction: and as they desire the good of their children, they must send them to school, or provide some other person to teach them; which if the parents neglect to do, the godfathers and godinothers of every child should put them in mind of it, and see that the child be taught, so soon as he is able to learn, what a solemn vow, promise, and profession he made by them at his baptism. And that he may know these things the better, they must call upon him to hear sermons; and chiefly they must provide that he may learn the Creed, the Lord's Prayer, and the Ten Commandments in the vulgar tongue, and all other things which a Christian ought to know and believe to his soul's health, as they are contained in the Church Catechism, and then to bring them to the bishop to be confirmed by him.
But for that purpose, when children have been taught the Catechism, they must be sent to the minister or
curate of the parish where they live, that he may examine and instruct them in it: examine whether they can say it, and instruct them so as to make them understand it. For though the words be all as plain as they can be well made, yet the things signified by those words are many of them so high, that it cannot be expected that children should reach and apprehend them without help which therefore they must go to their minister for, whose duty and office it is to acquaint them with the full sense and meaning of every word, what is signified by it, and what ground they have to believe it is God's holy word. But to do this to any purpose, requires more time than is commonly allowed for it in our days: and that is one great reason there are so few among us that are built up, as they ought to be, in their most holy faith. Many refuse or neglect to send their children to be catechised at all; and they who send them, send them so little, and for so little a time, that it is morally impossible they should be much the better for it: as many have found by experience; who, although in their childhood they were taught the Catechism, and could say it readily, yet having not been sufficiently instructed in it, they afterwards forgot it again, and knew no more than as if they had never learnt it. I wish this be not the case of too many parents. Wherefore that this great work may be done effectually, so as to answer its end, as children should begin as soon as ever they are able to learn the Catechism, and go on by degrees till they can say it perfectly by heart; so when they can do that, they are still to continue to be instructed in it all along, till they understand it all so well, as to be fit to receive the sacrament of the Lord's supper, which usually may be about sixteen or seventeen years of age, more or less, according to their several capacities. By this means, as they grow in years, they would grow also in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, 2 Pet. iii. 18. This likewise would be a great encou