Project Canterbury







MAY 25, 1836;








Transcribed by Wayne Kempton
Archivist of the Episcopal Diocese of New York, 2007





I suppose that if from all the sacred book that sentence should be chosen which would find with human hearts the fullest acceptation, it would be these words of Jesus Christ,--"Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of God." And I am persuaded, in like manner, that if a single aspect or provision of the Church should be selected, to establish the conviction that she came from God, and was devised for man, that would be taken which presents her, as the Spouse of Christ, training the children of her Lord, in holiness and piety, for their inheritance of glory. It follows, by a necessary consequence, that if we, my reverend brethren, would most effectually do honour to the Master whom we serve, and most extensively promote the welfare of the souls entrusted to our care, we must have ever in our hearts the sense of our relation to the young, and labour constantly, with diligence, fidelity and prayer, to be approved of Jesus, by the test which he proposed to Peter,--"Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? Feed my lambs!"

It was the purpose of the Primary Charge to state and urge "the edification of the Church, for the salvation of souls," as "the office and duty of the Christian Ministry." It seemed to me the best improvement of the occasion which brought us first together, [3/4] as fellow-servants in the same household of the common faith, to state thus generally the objects and the nature of our sacred calling--the end at which we aim, the means by which we seek it, the faithful efforts, fervent prayers, sincere desires, to which the Lord assures his blessing, approval here, and "life for evermore." Of a subject so extensive, the discussion, of necessity, was partial. An outline only could be given, to be filled up and finished, as occasion should demand, and God permit. Spared by his gracious providence through three years more, the period has arrived, at which "it is deemed proper," in the judgment of the Church, [*Canon xxvi of the General Convention.] "unless prevented by a reasonable cause," that I again address you in "a Charge." In proceeding to take up the details of that great subject, which could then be treated only in the mass, I select for present consideration the attractive feature which has just been specified--THE CHURCH'S CARE FOR "LITTLE CHILDREN"--and I ask your patient attention, reverend brethren, while, from an examination of her beautiful and merciful provisions, I develope her fidelity and our responsibility.

I. The Church is faithful to her Lord in the care she takes for "little children"--

To bring them to him, in Infant Baptism;
To train them up for him, in the instructions of the Catechism; and
To engage them to be his forever, in the rite of Confirmation.

[5] II. In each of these, but most especially in the second of them--the catechetical instruction of the young--we derive, my reverend brethren, from her fidelity, the argument and admonition of our great responsibility.--God grant that we may so receive the Saviour, in the little children whom he loves, that, at the last, he may receive and own us all as faithful shepherds, and bestow on us the crown of life "that fadeth not away!"

i. The Church is faithful to her Lord in bringing "little children" to him, in Infant Baptism. I assume that she has right to do so. I undertake no defence of the grounds and reasons of this sacrament. I enter into no argument to prove that the Gospel is more comprehensive, more benevolent, more regardful of human infirmity, than the Law. I can conceive of no necessity to show that He, who, before his crucifixion, said, "Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of God," did not afterwards, when he had risen from the dead, exclude them from the initiatory rite of his religion, or forbid that they should "be born of water and of the Spirit," without which, he declared to Nicodemus, none can "enter into the kingdom of God." But, the authority conceded, how benign, how beautiful, how admirable for wisdom and benevolence, the uses of the ordinance! The infant sufferer is born into a world of sorrow and of sin, the heir at once of both. At the first threshold of his being, the Saviour's spouse comes out to meet him. She bears him to the bleeding Cross. She layes him in the fountain that forever flows from it, "for [5/6] sin and for uncleanness." She signs him with its sacred sign. It is the signature of heaven upon his brow and in his heart. He is "born again" "of water and of the Spirit." He is the child of God, by "adoption and grace." He is an heir, through hope, of the eternal kingdom, by the merits of the most precious death of the only-begotten Son of God.

ii. When she has brought the little children thus to Christ, and made them by adoption members of the family of God, does she so leave them to the sinful bias of their fallen nature, and the corrupting influence of the wicked world? No! She bears them gently in a mother's arms. She clasps them fondly to a mother's breast. They are nurtured at her bosom. They are led by her hand. They are fed "with milk, and not with meat." There is ever in her ear the touching charge of her dear Lord, "take this child, and nurse him for me;" and the thought is ever foremost in her heart, to bring them up, whom He has so acknowledged, in His nurture and holy admonition. Admirable for this end, is the "Catechism" which she has provided,--a "form of sound words"--Scripture, or strictly scriptural--the work of men, giants in intellect, and saints in piety--"so concise that the youngest child may learn it by heart, and yet so copious as to contain all things necessary to salvation." [*Jenkin on the Liturgy, pp. 225, 226.] Admirable is the provision which she has made, that this unrivalled summary of Christian faith and practice may not remain as a dead letter in the Prayer Book,--her rubrics requiring "the minister of every parish" "diligently upon Sundays and [6/7] Holy-days" to "instruct or examine" the "children of his parish," "openly in the Church," in some part of it; and "all fathers, mothers, masters and mistresses" being enjoined to "cause their children, servants and apprentices, who have not learned their Catechism, to come to the Church, at the time appointed, and obediently to hear, and to be ordered by the minister" [*At the end of the Catechism.] her canons directing that the ministers who have charge of parishes "shall not only be diligent in instructing the children in the Catechism, but shall also by stated catechetical lectures and instruction be diligent in informing the youth and others in the doctrines, constitution, and liturgy of the Church" [* Canon xxviii.]--nay the very title of the Catechism bearing with it this direct and positive injunction, "that is to say, an instruction to be learned by every person, before he be brought to be confirmed by the Bishop."

iii. From the time that water first was sprinkled on the infant's brow, in the eternal, triune Name, this was the point to which all hearts were turned. Nearer than father or than mother [* In Gibson's Codex there is a remarkable illustration of this more than maternal interest of the Church for "little children," even in reference to their temporal safety. It is one of the Constitutions of Edmund, Archbishop of Canterbury, in the reign of Henry III, and is described in the margin thus--"Women shall be often admonished not to endanger their children." It bears date, A. D. 1236.--"Ne foeminae tenellos nocte opprimant, aliive periculo exponant. Foeminae commoneantur, ut pueros caute alant, et juxta se in nocte non collocarent, ne opprimantur. Solos juxta aquas sine custode non relinquant, et hoc omni die Dominica eis dicatur."] to the children of her Saviour's love, the Church, at that first moment of his Christian being, exhorted them, with the Godfathers and Godmothers, that they "take care " that he [7/8] "be brought to the Bishop to be confirmed by him, so soon as he can say the Creed, the Lord's Prayer and the Ten Commandments, and is sufficiently instructed in the other parts of the Church Catechism, set forth for that purpose." Through all his helpless infancy, and tender childhood, and ingenuous youth, this purpose was pursued. She knew how in a thousand ways the devious paths of life would tempt his inexperienced feet; and, with a track of light, she sketched for him that path of God's commandments, which is the single path of happiness and peace. She knew how deep the stain, how stern the yoke of sin; and she set up before him the mysterious Cross, and bid him turn to it through faith in him who suffered there and died, and be redeemed and cleansed and live. She knew how tempting were the vanities of time, and how prevailing were the spells of earth; and she disclosed to him the joys of heaven, and its untold, unmingled and eternal glories, and exhorted him to set his affections there, and to have his treasure there and his home, that when his flesh and his heart shall fail, that may be his rest, and his "portion forever." In the light of such instructions, and by the power of such convictions, and with the comfort of such hopes, she has continued faithfully to catechize [* Proverbs xxii. 6, marginal reading.] him in the way in which he ought to go: and now, "sufficiently instructed," its truths engraven on his heart, its precepts radiant in his life, he comes--no more "a babe in Christ," but grown in knowledge and in grace, the freeman of the Lord--to own before the Church the blessed bond sealed for him in his infancy, and in the [8/9] imparted strength of God, the Sanctifier, to make his only and his best return, in yielding up himself, his soul and body to the service and the glory of his Saviour. He makes the solemn pledge. He kneels. He supplicates the heavenly grace. The hands of an apostle rest with holy prayers upon his head. And he is God's, and--so he be faithful unto death--God is, and will be, his forever.

Such is an outline, brief and rapid, of the beautiful and merciful provision by which the Church demonstrates and exerts her care for little children. How true to nature! How profound in philosophy! In piety how elevated! How instinct with charity! She "knows whereof we are made, and remembers that we are but dust." She sees that "of ourselves we are not sufficient to any good thing, as of ourselves." She bears in mind that for the race of man, so weak, so lost, so "dead in trespasses and sins," the Saviour died, that he might redeem them from all iniquity, and purify them to himself, as "a peculiar people, zealous of good works." A work so great cannot begin too soon. In such an enterprize, so mighty, so momentous, involving the eternal welfare of immortal souls, no moment must be lost. In resisting the whole bent and bias of an evil nature, reclaiming it from the control and thraldom of a power to which its will consents, transforming it--to use the only word which tells us all--creating it anew, so that from being sinful and loving sin, it shall become holy and in love with holiness, there must be need of time, and influence, and energy, and patience, and perseverance, and true love that never fails nor falters, [9/10] nor grows weary,--and there needs above them and beyond them all, without which all the rest are vain, the sanctifying grace of the divine and holy Spirit. And she brings them all to bear--commences with the babe just born--secures for him, while worldlings would be caring for his fortune or his rank, a title to the purchase of the Cross, a portion in the heritage of heaven--lays her wait for the first dawning of his moral nature, and has prepared her pious hymn and holy prayer, to catch his infant heart--leads him gently by the hand to tender pastures and still waters--teaches him diligently, while he sits in the house and when he walks by the way, when he lies down and when he rises up--plies him with "line upon line, line upon line, precept upon precept, precept upon precept"--has patience with his weakness, with his slowness of heart, with his impatience, with his perversity, with his ingratitude--and supplicates, with fervent and continual prayers, the blessing of that gracious Spirit, who alone can bless her care, and crown her toil with increase.

And now, my reverend brethren, from the consideration of the Church's FAITHFULNESS in taking care of "little children," what can result, but the conviction of our great RESPONSIBILITY? In vain her merciful provision, without hearts that can appreciate and adopt it. In vain her admirable plans, if there be not willing hands, to carry them out, and to accomplish them. How shall we excuse ourselves, if, with such provision and such plans as we possess, we fail in our discharge of duty, and disappoint the Church's fondest hope? How, at the last great day, shall we endure [10/11] it, when he who died for all the flock, as once he turned and looked on Peter, shall turn and look on us, and ask, at our hands, the lambs our negligence has lost? Constrained by these considerations, solicitous that in our pastoral office we may all approve ourselves good shepherds, that so the Saviour may be honoured, the Church edified, the sheep and lambs well fed, immortal souls reclaimed and sanctified and saved, and our account returned "with joy, and not with grief," I urge with utmost earnestness, as worthy of your best attention, and certain to repay your greatest efforts, the catechetical instruction of the young; and, in what follows of the present Charge, shall ask your interest in the inquiry, which I now propose, as to its exact nature, its best method, and its manifold advantages.

1. The ancient and excellent institution of Catechising has suffered much depreciation from prevailing errors, as to its exact NATURE and intention. It has been supposed that these were both fulfilled when, now and then,--on rare occasions, as if an irksome task; when the whole congregation had retired, as if a work affording neither interest nor profit--its words, committed all to memory, were said by rote,--the questions asked exactly as they stand, no less, no more,--the answers rendered to the letter, and too often with but little more of understanding or of application than a well-instructed parrot might attain to. Who can wonder, if the institution, so administered, should suffer disrepute--if a duty discharged with so little interest, should be interesting to few or none--if an office, so reduced and dwindled to a bare [11/12] and barren form, should fail of any useful purpose, and fall into neglect? In the beginning it was not so. By catechising, beyond a question, the faith and practice of the Gospel first gained an introduction among men. "It was principally by catechising," says Bishop Mant, on the authority of Hegesippus, "that the religion of Jesus was in a few years spread over the known world." [* Notes on the Catechism.] "By catechising, under heaven," says Archdeacon Bayley, "was planted the apostolic Church; by catechising, the sound of the Gospel was sent forth into all lands." [* Charge to the Clergy of the Archdeaconry of Stow.] "St. Paul's converts," says the present Bishop of Chester, "had all been instructed in the faith, as the custom was, catechetically." [* J. B. Sumner, Apostolical Preaching, fourth London edition, p. 308.] "Clemens Alexandrinus, Heraclias, afterwards Bishop of Alexandria, and Origen, were catechists; and the latter was so eminently successful in proceeding upon the golden rule, "line upon line and precept upon precept," that he not only achieved conversions among the more ignorant and uninformed, but among accomplished scholars." [* Gilly's Horae Catecheticae, pp. 70, 1.] It follows from these statements, and from many more that might be made, that catechetical instruction could not have been in earlier days that mere mechanical procedure which some appear to think it. "Sure I am," says Bishop Edmund Law, "catechising in its original, true sense, implies something more than a bare running over an old form, though that consist of proper questions and answers, and contain whatever is needful to believe or practice." [* Dissertation on the nature and necessity of Catechising.]

[13] The word, indeed, to go to the beginning, is a scriptural word, the practice is a scriptural practice. When St. Luke declares his purpose, in writing to Theophilus, to be, that he might know the certainty of those things wherein he was instructed, the literal meaning of the word is catechised. [* St. Luke i. 4.] When Apollos is spoken of as a man instructed in the way of the Lord, the literal sense is catechised. [* Acts xviii. 25.] And when St. Paul declares that he had rather speak five words with his understanding that he might teach others, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue, the literal rendering is, that he might catechise [* 1 Corinthians xiv. 19.] others. And accordingly, St. Cyril says expressly, that "St. Paul preached the Gospel, from Rome to Illyria, and taught at Rome, by catechising." [* Catechesis, xvii, 16--quoted by Gilly, p. 66.] If it be asked then, what we are to understand precisely by this term, we answer, in the words of Clement of Alexandria, specially this--"the knowledge of religion first delivered to the ignorant by the Catechist, and then by them repeated over and over again" [* Cited by Comber, in Gilly, p. v.]--the catechist being said to instruct, by making the elements of Christian doctrine resound in the ears of his students, and the Catechumen being said to be taught, by repeating the words addressed to him, and by answering questions. The persons first catechised, though men in years, were children in the knowledge of the Gospel--so that the same Clement, after Paul, speaks of them as "babes in Christ," and of catechetical instruction as "milk," [13/14] being as it were, " the first nourishment of the soul." [* Bishop Kay's account of the Life and Writings of Clement of Alexandria pp. 444, 5.] It was therefore in its matter elementary, and simple in its style, brief and familiar, and relying much for certainty of inculcation on its frequent repetitions. But it addressed the mind. It engaged the heart. It unfolded the whole plan of salvation. It made Apollos "mighty in the scriptures." [*Acts xviii, 24, 25.] It could not, therefore, be a mere set form. It was not, therefore, matter for the memory alone. It did not exhaust itself in words and phrases, said by rote. In our day, things are changed. Christianity, in name at least, prevails. The catechumens are now children. But the lesson is the same. The object is the same. The human mind remains the same. And the familiar teaching of the Catechism, its clear analysis of Scripture, its orderly developement of Christian doctrine, its wholesome exhortations to Christian practice, its striking illustrations, its direct appeals, its "line upon line," and "precept upon precept," its adaptation to every form of character and every grade of intelligence, its variety and simplicity, its homeliness and earnestness, still render it the most effectual instrument of pastoral usefulness, and still claim for it, in its legitimate and proper exercise, that prominent regard which, in the primitive Church, in the Church through which we hold communion with the Apostles, and in our own Church, has ever been assigned to it.

[It would occupy much room merely to cite the provisions by which the Church of England has sought to enforce the primitive institution of Catechising. One, which owed its origin to the judicious piety of that rare youth, the sixth Edward, is thus cited by Bishop Gibson in his Codex Juris Ecclesiastici Anglicani--"In the Reformatio Legum there is an excellent rule upon this head. One hour or more in the afternoon service, let the parish-priest take up the Catechism, and give great attention to the explanation of it; for a frequent exposition of the Catechism is of the utmost use and benefit in the Church of God. And we wish this instruction to be given not only to the children, but to the young persons who are growing up, that they also may be well informed in the principles of their religion, and that the assiduity of the children may be stimulated by their presence."]

[15] "By catechising," says Bishop Law, whose exposition of the nature of the office we adopt, "I mean not the procuring our own Catechism, or any other short explanation of Christianity, to be said a few times over by rote, nor the delivering any stated discourse thereon, (though these may be of great use in their turns,) but the free, frequent, and familiar exercising of young persons in it, till they thoroughly understand, and can express the meaning of each word and phrase, according to their respective capacities, experience, and degree of improvement; thus leading them on gradually from sounds to sense, forming their thoughts, and fixing their attention to the reason and relation of things; aiding and inuring them to reflect a little on such points as are within their reach; and enabling them at length to give a clear account of all parts of the Christian dispensation, and become fully acquainted with their duty both to God and man. This is the office of catechising, which though it may appear a low, contemptible one, yet is assuredly an arduous task, and which perhaps requires the greatest pains and skill of any part of the whole ministerial function." [* Nature and necessity of Catechising.]

2. In the discharge of this great duty, thus defined, there doubtless may be used variety of METHOD, and this without departure from its proper purpose and intention. A few suggestions, the result of much reflection, [15/16] and confirmed in practice, will illustrate my own preference.

i. Whatever helps the Catechist may use, the Church Catechism should always be the text-book. There is none so good. There is no other that has authority. The use of Catechisms preliminary to it, and of Catechisms explanatory of it, and of Catechisms for those of riper years, is altogether unnecessary, and tends to distract the mind. Multiply Catechisms as you may, there is but one plan of salvation. That, the Catechism in the Prayer Book fully and faithfully developes. The best could do no more. "The country parson," says godly Herbert, "values Catechism highly. He useth and preferreth the ordinary Church Catechism, partly for obedience to authority, partly for uniformity sake, that the same common truths may be every where professed; especially since many remove from parish to parish, who, like Christian soldiers, are to give the word, and to satisfy the congregation, by their Catholic answers." [* The Parson Catechising.] In one respect it is peculiar. Parts of it are level to the comprehension of the simplest child. Parts of it, if thoroughly investigated, would task the loftiest reach of the most intellectual man--places in it, as an ancient [* Gregory the Great] writes of sacred Scripture, where every lamb may wade, other places where an elephant must swim. The utmost range is thus permitted to the Pastor in the adaptation of it to the several capacities of those whom he instructs--exacting of all, says Herbert, "the doctrines of the Catechism: of the younger sort the very words; of the elder, the [16/17] substance." [* The Parson Catechising.] Remembering, we may add, that as the youngest soon will rank among the elder, the elder soon will pass beyond his reach, he cannot be diligent enough in storing all their memories with the words, in imbuing all their hearts with the substance, of that most admirable Christian manual.

"There are very few human productions," says one who has written admirably on this subject, "upon which a Christian teacher can ground his instructions with so much confidence, as the Church Catechism." The Roman Catholic Catechisms run away into many points of faith and discipline, which have no support whatever from the plain words of Scripture. Several of the best Catechisms of reformed congregations are abstrusely doctrinal,--others are diffuse and lengthened out into treatises; while our own is neither redundant nor dogmatical. It never wanders from Scripture, or runs into nice distinctions: it contains that alone in which all Christians are agreed. It raises no scruples, it offends no prejudices, and its very brevity implies that it leaves much to the judgment of the parish priest, and demands that he do more than confine himself to its concise phraseology--that, taking its letter as his guide, he make a full and complete illustration of its apostolical lessons. Hence the clergyman who commences his catechetical lectures with this manual in his hand, sets out in good humour with all Christian men. Every body is with him, no man is against him. Those who think the Catechism too short, look to him for amplification. [17/18] Those who fancy it requires some explanation are glad to have him for an expounder." [* Gilly's Horae Catecheticae, pp. 147, 8.]

ii. Excellent as the Catechism is, and prominent as it should be in every plan of pastoral instruction, it should always be impressed upon the mind of every child, that it is nothing, and of no regard, but as it may be proved by Scripture. While therefore its venerable text should be continually repeated, analysed, enlarged on, illustrated, laid to the heart, applied to all the life, it should be constantly required that every line and word of it be shown to have authority in Holy Scripture. Used in this way, the Catechism explains the Bible, while the Bible sustains the Catechism. The plan of salvation is developed. The doctrines of the Cross are explained. The duties of life are enforced. Of the whole counsel of God no portion is kept back. Of all that appertains to life and godliness no point is left obscure. Nothing can be more impressive, nothing can be more interesting than an exercise like this. The lucid order of the Catechism throws light upon the meaning of the sacred text. The sacred text gives unction, power and life to the instructions of the Catechism. At every step, new confidence is gained, new beauties are apparent. The young Christian drinks conviction from the first fountains of eternal truth; and finds, with lively satisfaction, that every word which has been taught him by the Church, has precedent and sanction in the pure word of God.

iii. The exercise of catechising, thus guided by the provision made for it in the Prayer Book, with [18/19] continual comparison of every point with Holy Writ, should also be conducted in a constant reference to the order and services of the Church. In this way, her distinctive features, the authority and constitution of her ministry, the nature and importance of the sacraments, the admirable arrangement of the Christian year, her daily services, her solemn ceremonies, her impressive rites, may all be made familiar to the children, commended to their understandings, made engaging to their hearts; and shown to be not less accordant with the sacred warrant of the word of God than with the dictates of man's reason, and the infirmities, necessities and sympathies of his immortal nature. In this way, objections are answered, prejudices mitigated, ignorance informed. The relation of the parts is shown, and the agreement of the whole. The Church approves herself to be what God designed, the pillar and basis of the truth. [* 1 Timothy, iii. 15.] Her service is, and is seen to be, a "reasonable service;" her worship, "the beauty of holiness," commends itself to every heart, and is, as it is felt to be, by every pious soul, a "spiritual sacrifice," acceptable to God, through Jesus Christ.

iv. The catechising should be "openly in the Church." This is the provision of the rubric. Of its meaning, there can be no doubt. To catechise the children before the congregation have assembled, or after they have dispersed, is not to comply with it--is to deprive many who might be profited by it of the advantage--is to put its light "under a bushel," when it should be set up in the candlestick, and give light to all [19/20] that are in the house. The disregard of this injunction has tended very greatly to depreciate the Catechising. A thing done in a corner is naturally supposed to be of small importance; and what a thing is thought to be, it commonly is. General interest has been lost. Parents and guardians have seldom favoured it with their presence. It has possessed nothing to render it animating to the Pastor, or engaging to the children. It has become dull, formal work, without estimation, and with but small advantage. In too many cases, it has gone entirely out of use.

v. To restore the catechising to its due importance, it must not only be done openly in the Church, but, when it is done, it must take the place of the sermon. Objections will, I know, be raised to this proposal--that the people will complain of it--that it will hinder their edification--that it will make the Church unpopular. They are the objections, I presume to say, of those who never made the trial, or made it partially, and without confidence. The true inquiry to be made is, what is right, and what has been experience? It is right, doubtless, that "the priest's lips should keep knowledge, and that the people should seek the law at his mouth." What the Scripture teaches, what the Church enjoins, what his best judgment recommends, and his conscience honestly approves, he certainly must do. And what he makes it plain that he so does, the people will as certainly allow. They know that the children must be instructed. They know that the Church requires that he should catechise them openly before the congregation. [20/21] They know that for this service time must be allowed. They know that to add it to a sermon will exhaust his strength, while it fatigues the children, and is wearisome to them. It is an error to suppose the people blind to these considerations, or deaf to reason and to duty. They are alive to both. They confide in the judgment of him who ministers to them in holy things. They are predisposed to the approval of his godly judgments. Let him convince them that he seeks not theirs but them, let them be satisfied that he would save their children and themselves, and they will object to nothing that he proposes, they will withhold nothing that he requires,--be it consistent only with the Scripture and the Church. Of the good shepherd, that goeth before his sheep, the saying of the Saviour always will be true--calling his own sheep by name, and leading them out, his sheep will follow him, because they know his voice. [* John, x. 4.] And such is the lesson of experience. Where the catechising has been made a public exercise, and diligently administered, it has secured acceptance with the people, and approved itself a benefit to all. Bishop Sanderson, when he was a parochial clergyman, used to spend an hour at evening in the Church Catechism: "whereat," says one of his biographers, "the parents and elder sort were wont to be present, and from whence they reaped greater benefit than from his sermons; the great principles of religion working more powerfully upon them than his discourses and enlargements." [* Special Remarks in the Life of Dr. Sanderson, p. 21.] "I never yet," says Bishop Fleetwood, "heard catechising in the [21/22] Church, where I did not see the oldest and the gravest people attend as seriously as any else; and I dare say they were as much edified and more pleased to be so than the elder." [* Works, p. 467.] "In most country parishes," says the present Bishop of London, "a catechetical examination of young persons, interspersed with judicious illustrations and remarks, will be of greater benefit to the congregation than a second sermon." [* Primary Charge, p. 29] My own experience in every respect confirms the statement of these high authorities. Every where, the testimony is that the catechising at the visitation, transcends in interest and in profit the usual sermon. Once in a month, at least, in every parish--as I have practised with entire acceptance and to great advantage in my own--I most decidedly advise the substitution. I am much disposed to think with Bishop Blomfield, that it were well, if it were weekly. I only differ from him, in believing, that in city, equally with country parishes, the practice is not only feasible, but altogether to be commended.

vi. It is scarcely necessary to suggest, that in conducting the catechetical exercise, distinctness, simplicity, directness, familiarity, variety are elements essential to success.--Distinctness is essential to the hearing, first, and then to the understanding, of the exercise. To ensure the hearing of the answers, as well as of the questions, the minister must often repeat them, as they fall from the weak voice of his little, timid pupil: and this, if it be connected with a word or two, in confirmation, if it be right, in correction, if it be wrong; sometimes by way of [22/23] explanation, sometimes by way of enlargement,--incorporating as it were the teacher with the scholars,--will give additional weight and value to the lesson. That its whole tenour may be understood, as well as heard, the questions must be short, the points precise, the order natural--the interrogatory so framed that if the expected answer be not in the words of the Catechism itself, it may be in the fewest words, connected obviously with what precedes, suggesting evidently that which is to follow.--Simplicity, of matter and of arrangement is a most important quality in catechising. Let a single train of thought be well arranged in the instructor's mind, before he commence the exercise. Multiplicity of subjects divides, complexity of statement will confuse, the attention of the learner. A single doctrine or a single duty, with its connections and its consequences, will often furnish matter for a lesson. The progress made by weeks or months, from step to step, completes in time the whole great subject, and yet never overtasks the youthful mind. A single truth, a single precept, understood, inculcated, laid to the heart, will fix itself there, and, with the Spirit's gracious aid, will live and grow there. Another and another is presented and enforced. The food received is well digested. The soul is fed and nurtured. "The sincere milk of the word" gives gradually place to the "strong meat." The "babe in Christ" increases "in wisdom and in stature," and grows "in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ."--To this end, directness and familiarity must come in aid of distinctness and simplicity. The Christian Pastor must be as a father [23/24] among his children. He must know them all by name. He must arrest the individual eye. He must address the individual heart. To do this, he must come down to the level of every age and capacity. "He is not catechising," says one who understands the subject well, "when he ceases to be perfectly intelligible, easy and familiar." [*Gilly's Horae Catecheticae, p. 148.] "He must descend," says Bishop Sumner, "from the high and lofty tone of language, to walk in the humble terms of Scripture." "He must abound in interrogations and direct addresses, which, however the rules of composition may condemn in writing, the rules of nature sanction and require in speaking." [*Apostolical Preaching, p. 11. "The concern of a parish minister," says Archbishop Seeker, "is to make the lowest of his congregation apprehend the doctrine of salvation by repentance, faith and obedience; and to labour, that, when they know the way of life, they walk in it. If he doth not these things for them, he doth nothing; and it requires much consideration to find out the proper methods of doing them, and much pains and patience to try one after another. Smooth discourses, composed partly in flowing sentences which they cannot follow to the end, containing little that awakes their drowsy attention, little that enforces on them plainly and home what they must do to be saved, leave them as ignorant and uninformed as ever, and only lull them into a fatal security. Therefore, bring yourselves down to their level."--Second Charge.] The great desideratum is to put the children at their ease; and this they will be if they feel that they are talking with a friend. Let your children see that you take pleasure in instructing them. Let them see that what you do, you do from love. Let them feel that what you love in them is their immortal souls, for which the Saviour died; and lead them thus to lay to heart, while yet the heart is young and soft, the unction of that blood which only cleanses from all sin.--Finally, let the subject be relieved, the exercise diversified, the [24/25] attention roused and kept alive, by a continual variety--by sudden and abrupt interrogations, by following out the train of thought which some unlooked for answer may suggest, by availing yourselves of the infinitude of easy, natural and graceful diversions from the main argument, which the laws of association will constantly supply, by direct appeals, by searching questions, by comparison and contrast, by allusions to the incidents and characters of Scripture, by illustrations from the services and order of the Church, by suffering the little learner sometimes to go wrong, that he may correct himself, by directing the honest answers of the children to the exposure and reproof of prevailing error, whether in faith or practice, and by casual remarks, incidental inferences, addresses to children, to teachers, to parents, to the whole congregation--in a word, by whatever the occasion naturally suggests, that can exercise the mind or engage the hearts of the children in "the doctrine which is according to godliness," and at the same time quicken the recollection of those of riper years, impress them with a just sense of their condition and its responsibilities, and provoke them to a holy emulation.

3. Of the final topic of the Charge, the manifold ADVANTAGES of public Catechising, I have inevitably anticipated much. In regard to those which still remain unnoticed--so admirable for usefulness is the primitive institution--the difficulty is, from the great number, which present themselves, to select the few which time and our convenience allow. I shall attempt no more at present than to show, by the enumeration of some leading benefits, its great importance [25/26] in these two relations--as strengthening the endearing bond which should unite the Pastor with his people, and as a powerful instrument, in his hand, of Christian education.

i. I know not how the nature of that bond which should unite the Pastor with the people can be more fully and more clearly stated, than I find it in a Charge of the present Primate of all England, when diocesan of London. "The allegiance you owe to the Church," he says, "obliges you in every particular of your professional conduct to look to her for direction, and where she either affords no definite rule, or custom has superseded her original practice, to yield substantial obedience at least by taking her principles for your guide. Her wisdom indeed might of itself command our attention if her authority were less. In her Canons, which are a body of laws for the general regulation of her discipline, we find many directions of the greatest importance which ought to be familiar to the parish priest. Her liturgical formularies not only supply a collection of prayers, instructions and offices, adapted to all the solemnities of religious worship, to the exigencies of every age and every condition, to the uses of every day, to all the contingencies of life; but virtually establish a system of parochial discipline conceived on an accurate notion of the relation between the pastor and his flock, designed to connect them by a regular intercourse, and to direct the conduct of both parties in the performance of their respective duties. As the groundwork of this plan, it is her peculiar object to bring the parishioner from his earliest days into immediate contact with his spiritual teacher and guide. [26/27] In the tenour of the rubrics annexed to the Catechism, and the offices of Baptism and Confirmation compared with the several Canons relating to the same points, we have connected indications of this design. Whether we look to the dedication of the infant to God by the ministry of the priest, to the profession of faith and obedience which is made in his presence by the Sponsors, or to the exhortation which designates their duties, and specifies the instruction to be given to the child,--we discern the pervading intention of placing the rising generation in the view of the minister, of giving them in the tenderest infancy the advantage of his paternal protection, and sending them to the Church to be publicly instructed by him in faith and morals, till he is so well satisfied with their proficiency as to recommend them for Confirmation to the Bishop." [* Charge to the Clergy of the diocese of London, 1822, third edition, pp. 20-22.--I take this occasion to suggest the obvious importance of using every mode of influence to retain the elder children and youth of the congregation in the habit of Catechising. It is for their good. It makes the exercise more interesting. It knits the pastoral bond. It harmonizes and strengthens the Church.] This is an admirable statement. It involves an argument powerful indeed to commend the Church to universal acceptation. It presents a beautiful and touching illustration of the Saviour's pitying love for men, in providing for them, by an office which himself ordained, perpetuates and has declared that he will bless, that, from the cradle to the grave, they shall possess, in him who is their minister in holy things, a guide, companion, friend and father.

To strengthen and confirm this holy bond of pastoral love, the institution of the Catechism gives [27/28] powerful aid by its just influence with children. The hearts of little children are soft and warm. They take impressions easily, and hold them long. The pastoral eye, the pastoral voice, the pastoral smile, makes an impression then, which time will not efface. Gathering the lambs with his arm, and carrying them in his bosom, bringing back that which was driven away, and seeking again that which was lost, the good shepherd commends himself not only, but his message, and his Master, to their favour. The love they feel for him insensibly attaches to his work, and he wins souls for Christ, at the time when they are fittest for his service, and in the way which is most certain to secure them to him forever.--Nor is this all. To gain the parent's heart, the surest process is to win the child's. There is no bond so strong as nature knits when sanctified by grace. There is no compensation of God's providence so beautiful, as when the child repays the debt of life, by leading them who gave it to the fountain, where men drink, and live forever. And angels, could so base a passion touch their sinless souls, might well be thought to envy him whose pastoral influence God has blessed to uses so divine. And when the little child, by visits such as angels ply from heaven to earth, has led the thoughtless parent to the throne of grace, and round the sacred hearth the pious circle meet to read the word of God, or pour the fervent prayer, there is no dearer bond on earth than that which love and gratitude then knit about the pastoral crook, and a new chaplet then is twined in heaven, to grace the pastoral crown.

ii. [29] Nor, less effectual is the public Catechising, as an instrument of Christian education, than in its influence on the pastoral bond. To suppose that the capacity to comprehend sermons, or even to understand the sacred Scriptures, can be had, without some previous preparation, is an obvious error. For want of elementary knowledge, much preaching is in vain. We take for granted that the people know much more than they have ever had the opportunity to learn. Hence the necessity of Catechising to supply the first principles, to familiarize with terms and forms, to discipline the understanding and prepare the heart. "There is no employment in the world," says Bishop Hall, "wherein God's ministers can employ themselves so profitably as in this of plain and familiar Catechism. What is a building without a foundation? If this ground work be not surely laid, all their divine discourses lie but upon shifting sand." [* The Peace-maker, section 2-Works, viii. 90.] "Great scholars," said Archbishop Usher, "possibly may think that it stands not so well with their credit to stoop thus low, and to spend so much of their time in teaching these rudiments and first principles of the doctrine of Christ. But they should consider that the laying of the foundation skilfully, as it is the matter of greatest importance in the whole building, so it is the very master-piece of the wisest builder." [* Sermon before King James I.] And Bishop Wilson, in his primitive administration of the diocese of Sodor and Man, having established Catechising as the general usage of the Churches, after prayers in the afternoon, instead of a sermon, refused [29/30] permission, in a single instance, to depart from this arrangement, on the ground that he considered it of more use to the souls both of the learned and the ignorant than the very best sermon from the pulpit. And in a Charge delivered in his eighty-fifth year, he states his opinion, as "a truth not to be questioned, that the plainest sermon from the pulpit will not be understood, nor profit any who has not been well instructed in the principles of Christianity contained in the Church Catechism." "These," he continues, "are foundation principles, and such as every pastor of souls is obliged to explain, as he hopes ever to do good by his other sermons and labours. We say to explain, not only in set discourses from the pulpit, but in a plain familiar manner, where questions may be asked, and things explained, so as both old and young may be edified. Preaching will always be our duty, but of little use, to those who understand not the meaning of the words which we make use of in our sermons, as, God knows, too many must be supposed to do for want of being instructed in their younger years."--Now against the evil thus earnestly deprecated by one, than whom there never was a wiser or better man, the office of Catechising presents a double barrier--first, as it makes the learners intimately familiar with the Scriptures, and then with the Scriptures as received and set forth in the Church. The Scriptures are the truth, containing all things necessary for salvation. The Church is the ground and pillar of the truth--on which it rests, by which it is sustained and guarded, from which it is presented to mankind, in due connection with the ministry, the [30/31] ordinances, the institutions and the worship of the Apostles. And the true use and value of her catechetical instructions is well stated by the last biographer of our illustrious Hobart--who was himself not only a great admirer of this good old form of teaching, but a great friend also to the old-fashioned mode of catechising in the Church--as designed to attach her members, "by the power of early habit, to her doctrines, her discipline, and her worship; making them not theologians but Christians, and not Christians in a vague and general sense, but Christians in the Church: recognizing in what it teaches the doctrines of the Gospel--in the sacraments which it administers the covenanted means of grace--in its ministry, a divine commission from Christ and his Apostles--and in its services a rational, and heart-felt worship offered to Almighty God." [* McVickar's Professional Years of Hobart, p. 71.]

It will not need much demonstration to establish from all this the inference, that Catechising tends greatly to shut out error from the Church, and to promote integrity of doctrine. "With respect to the catechetical institution of youth," says Bishop Jebb, "I would remind you that it was the primitive method; employed by the Apostles and their immediate followers, and in after ages by the whole succession of the Catholic and Apostolic Church, for training up and organizing the community of Christians in sound principles of faith, in the love of God and man, and in purity of life and conversation. It is observable accordingly, that in exact proportion as Catechising has been practised or neglected, the public faith and [31/32] morals have been seen to flourish or decline;" "and it is not too much to say, that next to an established liturgy, and beyond all prescribed confessions of faith, the single ordinance of catechetical institution has, under Providence, been the great stay and support throughout Christendom of orthodox unwavering Catholicity." [* Primary Charge]

The benefit of Catechising, designed especially for children and young persons, runs over and does good to all the congregation. This is expressed with great simplicity by holy Herbert in his Country Parson, "He requires all to be present at Catechising: first, for the authority of the work; secondly, that parents or masters, as they hear the answers prove, may, when they come home, either commend or reprove, either reward or punish; thirdly, that those of the elder sort, who are not well grounded, may then, by an honourable way, take occasion to be better instructed; fourthly, that those who are well-grown in the knowledge of religion, may examine their grounds, review their errors, and by occasion of both enlarge their meditations." [* Parson Catechising] "By-standers of all degrees of attainment take an interest in observing how the scroll of human nature is unfolded by this exercise. They are pleased in seeing the effects which religious doctrine has upon youthful minds and hearts--in listening to replies which display the different dispositions and capacities of children--in witnessing the developement of character and genius--and in comparing their own religious advancement and acquirements with those of the juvenile circle before them. Many [32/33] of my congregation have made no secret of confessing that they could not answer questions proposed as well as the children have done, and that they have been thankful for the opportunity of picking up information without the shame or the trouble of asking for it. They have made a still more important acknowledgment--that they have taken kindly hints and rebukes which were aimed at them through younger marks, when a direct reproof would have been intolerable." "The simplicity of the Gospel thus triumphs unexpectedly over the wisdom of the wise; and praise is perfected out of the mouths of babes and sucklings." [* Gilly, Horae Catecheticae , 150, 71.]

It may be thought that the Catechising so administered will supersede the Sunday School. I answer, no, it will improve and elevate it. The Sunday School system is the application of the great principle of division of labour to the arduous work of pastoral instruction. The Teachers of the Sunday School are thus the Pastor's deputies--his constant supervision, and personal direction of the whole machinery, being indispensable not only to its working well, but to his faithful discharge of his great trust. The Catechising supplies the Pastor with an admirable test of the faithfulness of the Teachers and of the improvement of the Scholars. It is his touchstone, to try them, if they be sound in doctrine, if they understand what they read, if they grow in grace.--Nor is this all. It is a nursery of teachers. The Church has suffered much from teachers that had need to learn. The religious instruction of the young has been intrusted to those who were themselves deficient in the first [33/34] principles of Christian knowledge. Another age must reap, it must be feared, the bitter harvest that has been sown in this. The remedy is to be found in the adoption of the mode of catechetical instruction. Of those who are so trained up, it will be true, as of the youthful Timothy, that from children they have known the Scriptures. Rooted and grounded in the faith, they may be trusted, under the pastoral direction, to establish others. Uniform in doctrine and in practice, built up as living stones upon the sure foundation, the Church of Christ will thus be reared, "an holy temple, acceptable to God, through Jesus Christ our Lord."

It is a fact most worthy to be noticed, says Shepherd, in his Elucidation of the Book of Common Prayer, that "however individuals or societies have differed in other points, on the utility and necessity of Catechising all have agreed--ancients and moderns; Europeans, Asiatics and Africans; Greeks and Latins; Papists and Protestants; Lutherans and Calvinists; the Church of England and Dissenters. Luther in the beginning of the Reformation wrote two Catechisms; and he assures us that Catechising afforded him more delight that any other ministerial duty." The Church of Rome makes diligent and most effectual use of its instructions. The Council of Trent, in the preface to their Catechism, bear powerful, though reluctant testimony to the value of that office--"the age is sadly sensible what mischief they (the Protestants) have done the Church of Rome, not only by their tongues, but especially by those writings called Catechisms." To Catechising, Baxter, the great Non-conformist, [34/35] attributed much of his success at Kidderminster. "When I came thither first, there was about one family in a street that worshipped God, and called upon his name; and when I came away, there were some streets, where there was not past one family in the side of a street that did not so, and that did not, by professing serious godliness, give us hopes of their sincerity. And those families which were the worst, being inns and alehouses, usually some person in each house did seem to be religious. When I set upon a personal conference with each family, and Catechising them, there were very few in all the town that did refuse to come." [* Life and Times.] And of Eliot the Indian Missionary, who was indefatigable in Catechising, it is said, that "he left a well principled people behind him."

The institution of Catechising, so commended by the wisest and the best that have adorned and blessed the Church of Christ, fell for a season into disregard. It is among the signs of the times that give best promise of a brighter age, that in every quarter attention to it has lately been revived. Christians of every name, with self reproach for their past negligence, resume the instructions of the Catechism. I need not tell you, reverend brethren, how highly I commend their wisdom. I need not tell you how greatly I desire the restoration of the ancient ordinance to its primitive relations. It is grateful to me to know, that in these views I do but sympathize with my revered predecessor, who, in two successive Charges, urged upon you with conclusive earnestness the same important subject. [* See Bishop Croes' Charges, in 1819, and in 1829.] I rejoice to see that every [35/36] year confirms the wisdom of this course. I fondly trust that in this diocese the Church may one day be restored, in this, not only, but in other points, to the pure pattern of primitive observance. I put on record, in the expressive words of Bishop Hall, the strong conclusions of my personal experience--"the most useful of all preaching is catechetical; this being the ground, the other raiseth the walls and roofe--this informs the judgment, that stirs up the affections. What good use is there of those affections that runne before the judgment? Or of those walls that want a foundation? For my part, I have spent the greater halfe of my life in this station of our holy service; I thank God, not unpainfully nor unprofitably. But there is no one thing of which I repent so much, as not to have spent more houres in this public exercise of catechisme; in regard whereof I would quarrel with my very sermons, and wish that a great part had been exchanged for this preaching conference." [* Dedication of "The old Religion," Works ix. p. 224.]

My reverend brethren, the "little children" whom the Church commends to our assiduous care will soon be men and women. Shall they "grow in grace and in the knowledge and love of God," and so be pillars in his house? Or shall they be left to the evil bias of their fallen nature, and to the evil influence of "the instruction which causeth to err," and so be wretched here, and lost hereafter? What we do for "little children," we do for future generations, we do for eternity. It is ours to mould their character; and so to order, under God, the character of the community. It is ours [36/37] to win them, if it so please him, for the Lord; and so to do our part in preparing for the Saviour, what he purchased with his own blood, "a glorious Church not having spot nor wrinkle nor any such thing." Shall we be wanting to such responsibilities? Shall we be negligent of such opportunities? Difficulties doubtless there are and discouragements; and because we cannot do in all respects precisely as we would, and precisely when we would, we are tempted sometimes to give up the effort in despair. But discouragements and difficulties are among the tokens that the work we are engaged in is of God. Discouragements and difficulties are a part of that discipline by which the Lord would harden us, and strengthen us to do him better service. In the cause of Christ, for the glory of his Church, to promote the welfare of our kind, what is there that we cannot bear, and what, with God to help us, that we cannot do? Remembering that the work is his, that the strength is his, that the reward is his, be it ours to give ourselves wholly up to do and bear his will. Who are we that we should be God's fellow-workers in establishing the kingdom of his Son! How unworthy of that holy fellowship, if we are not prepared in all things, to die or live for its accomplishment! How animating the assurance of that reward in heaven, which--not according to our desert, beloved brethren, but according to our desire--shall crown and overpay our utmost efforts to do the will of God!

My reverend brethren, there is one point of pastoral duty, so important to the influence of our office, so absolutely indispensable to the success of all your efforts [37/38] in the care of "little children," and yet so apt to be neglected, or performed imperfectly, that I feel bound in the most solemn manner to urge it here and now upon your notice. To have an influence with little children, you must domesticate yourselves among them. A stranger cannot gain their love. The pastor who goes in and out among them, who calls them by their names, who is among them as a father--he gains their confidence, he enshrines himself within their hearts. Nor is it only for their sakes that I commend and urge the duty of pastoral visitation. To "turn the hearts of the children to the fathers, and of the fathers to the children," is a work, for which one day in seven will not suffice. Though you "speak with the tongues of angels," if you do not follow up the lessons of the pulpit, "from house to house," among your people, your labour will too often be in vain. You must add to the authority of the teacher the influence of the friend. You must watch for opportunity, lay wait for souls, and take them with a holy guile. "If you would have access to a man's heart," said that shrewd observer, Richard Cecil, "you must go into his house." And it is so. You take him by the hand. You sit by his hearth. You are partaker at his board. You are at home with him, and you enable him to feel at home with you. You gain his confidence. You touch the electric chain of sympathy. You possess yourself of his affections. You draw him with "the cords of a man."--My reverend brethren, you underrate what I must call your potential influence with your people, and which a little more of pastoral familiarity would render actual and effectual. You do not know [38/39] how much they reverence your office. You do not know how well disposed they are to love your persons. You do not know how much they long to speak with you "as a man speaketh with his friend;" and how many times the smoking flax, that at a favorable moment might have kindled into flame, has been put out for want of opportunity. Every where, my reverend brethren, I receive the liveliest evidence of the people's approbation of your public labors. Too often is it qualified with deep regret, that they are not indulged in greater measures with your Pastoral intercourse. I know that these complaints are sometimes without reason. But they spring from feelings that do honor to your office. They attest the general estimation of your personal worth. I rejoice to hear them. I beseech you not to disregard them. Accept the challenge which they give. Go in, and occupy the willing hearts that wait on your acceptance. Win them through Christ. Win them to holiness. Win them for heaven.

My brethren, reverend and beloved, the care of souls is a tremendous care. It calls for all our talents, for all our efforts, and for all our time. To be faithful in it, to find a blessing in it, we must give ourselves wholly up to it, and draw our cares and studies all that way. A world is no equivalent to one immortal soul. Ten thousand worlds would be no purchase for one moment of their endless joy, who, are "forever with the Lord."

[40] Baptism.

Blest be the Church, that, watching o'er the needs
Of Infancy, provides a timely shower,
Whose virtue changes to a Christian flower
The sinful product of a bed of weeds!
Fitliest beneath the sacred roof proceeds
The ministration; while parental Love
Looks on, and Grace descendeth from above
As the high service pledges now, now pleads.
There, should vain thoughts outspread their wings and fly
To meet the coming hours of festal mirth,
The tombs which hear and answer that brief cry,
The infant's notice of his second birth,
Recal the wandering soul to sympathy,
Fills what man hopes from Heaven, yet fears from Earth.


From little down to least--in due degree,
Around the Pastor, each in new-wrought vest,
Each with a vernal posy at his breast,
We stood, a trembling, earnest company!
With low soft murmur, like a distant bee,
Some spake, by thought-perplexing fears betrayed;
And some a bold unerring answer made;
How fluttered then thy anxious heart for me,
Beloved Mother! Thou whose happy hand
Had bound the flowers I wore, with faithful tie;
Sweet flowers! at whose inaudible command
Her countenance, phantom-like, doth re-appear:
O lost too early for the frequent tear,
And ill requited by this heartfelt sigh!


The young ones gathered in from hill and dale,
With holiday delight on every brow:
'Tis passed away; far other thoughts prevail;
For they are taking the baptismal vow
Upon their conscious selves; their own lips speak
The solemn promise. Strongest sinews fail,
And many a blooming, many a lovely cheek
Under the holy fear of God turns pale,
While on each head his lawn-robed servant lays
An apostolic hand, and with prayer seals
The covenant. The Omnipotent will raise
Their feeble souls; and bear with his regrets,
Who, looking round the fair assemblage, feels
That ere the sun goes down their childhood sets.



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