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THAT popish axiom is long since exploded; that ignorance is the mother of devotion.
The world now doth see, that without knowledge the mind is not good. And look, as no knowledge is so necessary, as that of the grounds and principles of the Christian religion, so no way is so apt to convey it to men, as that which is called catechistical. More knowledge is ordinarily diffused, especially among the ignorant, and younger sort, by one hour's catechistical exercise, than by many hours discourses. This way helps the understanding, whilst it provokes the attention: many elaborate sermons being lost through the inadvertency of the hearers. Thus not only ignorance is cured, but error also is prevented: Too many being misguided, because they were not at first well-grounded in the principles of the doctrine of Christ. For such reasons as these, we highly approve the labours of this reverend Brother, in his explanation of the Assembly's Shorter Catechism. And having to our great satisfaction perused it ourselves in whole or in part, do readily recommend it to others: For though he composed it at first for his own particular congregation, yet we judge it must be greatly useful to all Christians in general, especially to private families. The manner of using it in families, must be left to the discretion of the masters and governors respectively, though yet we concur with the author, and think it advisable (as he hints in one of his Epistles) that after a question of the Catechism is propounded, and an answer is returned without the book by one in the family, the
same person, or some other, to be called upon to read (if not rehearse) the explanation of it, the rest reading along with him in several books; by which means their thoughts (which are apt to wander) will be the more inTo conclude though the Assembly's Shorter Catechism itself be above our recommendation, as having its praises already in the churches of Christ; yet we think it good to give it under our hands, that this explanation of it is very worthy of acceptation.
SOME dedicate their books unto Lords and Ladies, or othr er great persons; such possibly I might find out, had I a mind to seek: But as my love is most endeared unto you, to whom I stand so nearly related; so my greatest ambition is to be serviceable to your souls. Your cordial and constant love to me and my labours (in a whiffling age) of which you have given many manifest proofs, deserveth a greater expression of my grateful sense, than the dedication of this book unto you.
GOD, by bringing you under my ministry, hath given me the charge of your souls; and God, by bringing persons into your families, hath given you the charge of their souls. Our charge is great, and to be guilty of the ruin of souls, is dreadful! Happy shall we be, if we be found faithful to our own and others souls, in the great day of accounts. Too many, even in our nation and city perish, and run blindfold into hell, for want of knowledge, for want of instruction; and as no way of instruction doth convey clearer light of distinct knowledge in the principles of religion, than the way of catechising; so the neglect of this in ministers and masters of families, is such a sin of unfaithfulness unto the souls of them that are under their charge, that all of us should take heed we have it not to answer for, at at the appearance of our Lord. It is not sufficient for you that you bring your children and servants to receive public instruction: but it is your duty also to instruct them privately, and at home to examine them in their Catechisms. I know no Cate-. chism more full of light and sound doctrine, than the Shorter Catechism of the late reverend Assembly; which because in many answers there are things not easy to be understood by beginners; therefore in this, my explanation of it, I have taken pains to take abroad every answer, to open it in several under-questions and answers, and to confirm the truths thereof by reason and scripture proofs: which I have endeavoured to do as plainly and familiarly as I could, that every thing therein might be the
more intelligible and useful unto such as either learn or read it. Some chief controversies in religion I have touched upon, briefly propounding arguments for the backing of truth, and not left ob jections wholly unanswered; which I have the rather done, that all of you, especially the more unexperienced young ones under you, might get some armour against every where prevailing error. You know that some have committed the whole, so far as we have gone, unto memory; how beneficial they have found this, others beside themselves may speak. Yet all have not that strength of memory, neither would I impose this explanation to be learned without book by all. Yet this I advise, that you who are masters of families, would set apart time twice, or at least once every week, to examine your children and servants in the Assembly's Catechism, taking Mr. Lye's excellent method in the way of asking questions, whom God hath made singularly useful in diffusing much light among young ones. And after they have given you the answers without book which are in the Catechism, that then yourselves would read, or cause one of them to read some part of this explanation on those answers, so far as you can well go at a time; and if each of them that can read, should, both in your families and in your assembly, have one of these explanations in their hands to read, along with them that read, or publicly answer, they would the better attend and understand what is read or answered: which course, 1 apprehend, will exceedingly tend to their great profit; and that such as do this with diligence, will (through God's grace) attain in a short time proficiency in the best knowledge, which is such a jewel, that none, methinks, should be contented without, when for less labour than for jewels of inferior value it may be obtained. This Explanatory Catechism was chiefly (if not only) intended for you, and the use of such as are of my own congregation: which if it may find acceptation also with, and prove beneficial unto other families, I shall rejoice. The more generally useful these poor labours are, as it will tend so much the more to the glory of my great Master, so it will yield to myself the greatest comfort, especially in a dying hour. I shall take my leave of you, though I be not departed from you, with the departing exhortation of the apostle Paul, Acts xx. 32.
And now brethren I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an in'heritance among all them which are sanctified."
Your soul's earnest well-wisher,`