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A Scripture Catechism, in the Method of the Assemblies

INTRODUCTION

We are very happy (I know) in catechisms, which, to the inhabitants of this valley of vision, will be either the means of knowledge, or the shame of ignorance. The variety of these forms of sound words, while they all speak for substance the same thing, and are all built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, derogate not at all from the honour of the Christian doctrine, but rather (like the setting up of several candles in the same room) help to diffuse the light, and make it stronger. Many very excellent expositions we have both of the Church Catechism and of the Assemblies, and an ancient and profitable one of Mr Ball's; and yet some encourage me to hope, that this essay, which is in a way not hitherto used, that I know of, will be found not altogether useless. Two things I aim at in it: one is, to put the catechism into such a dress, as to make it (if possible) both easy and copious, so as that it may not be an insuperable task to the learner, and yet may furnish him with plenty of useful knowledge. The bulk of it (which somewhat exceeds my first intentions) shows it to be copious; and yet I think it is made very easy, by breaking of it into so many short questions, and those answered by Yes or No, which the learner may at first content himself with, the teacher, if he pleases, reading the proofs; and, by degrees, the learner, who is willing to take a little pains, and begins to be versed in the Scriptures, will find it no great difficulty to charge his memory with most of the proofs annexed, which the question often times easily introduces, and which, by frequent use, will in time become familiar. I remember to have seen an explanation of the Assemblies shorter catechism, (and I think it was the first that ever was published,) by a great man, the Rev. Dr. Willis, of Oxford, which was done by breaking the propositions of the catechism into short questions, answered (as this) with Yes or No. That performance, though very short, was an excellent precedent, directing to a method of catechising, which has been of good use to enrich the understanding of the learners, without overloading their memories. The text subjoined here will show that our Yea is yea, and our Nay, nay. To make this the more easy, the several sections under each article may be allotted to several catechumens.

But another thing I aim at, (and indeed the chief) is to promote the knowledge of the Scriptures. Divine truths, methinks, sound best in divine language; and the things which God has revealed to us by his Spirit, cannot be conveyed in a more safe and proper vehicle, than by the words which the Holy Ghost teaches, (1 Cor. 2:10, 13.) which, though I would be far from superstitiously tying myself or others to, yet, I confess, I cannot but think they should be preferred. I have often observed how the evangelist rectifies a mistake which rose upon a saying of Christ's, only by repeating the words spoken, John 21:23. He said not, He shall not die; but, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? He said so, and no more; add thou not to his words. We are directed not only to think, but to speak according to his word, Isaiah 8:20.

It is especially profitable to acquaint children betimes with their Bibles, and to show them their religion there. Timothy's catechism was the Scripture, which he knew apobrephousfrom his very infancy, 2 Timothy 3:15. They who are ready and mighty in the Scriptures, will be thoroughly furnished for every good work, and thoroughly fortified against every evil work, What I have here endeavoured, may (I hope) prove a good expedient for this purpose, obliging myself to produce a text of Scripture for every question, it cannot be thought they should be alike apposite. Perhaps here and there one may be found that is diverted from its primary intention by an allusion only, (which I think is warranted by divers of the New Testament quotations out of the Old,) yet I hope there are none perverted. Were we more conversant with the inspired writings, we should (as one of the ancients speaks) "adore the fulness of the Scriptures." I have quoted the texts as concisely as I could, in hopes the diligent reader, who searches the Scripture daily, will be stirred up to look further into the place. referred to, which he will often find very well worth his while. To that end, I have throughout added the book, chapter, and verse; which yet it is needless for them who learn by heart to trouble themselves with.

To the service of such ministers, governors of families, and other Christians, as shall see cause to make use of such a help, with an entire dependence upon the grace and blessing of God, for the acceptableness and usefulness of it, this small oblation is humbly tendered, by one who is earnestly desirous to increase in Scripture knowledge, and ambitious of the honour of being any way instrumental to propagate it.

—MATTHEW HENRY.

POSTSCRIPT TO THE THIRD EDITION

I am willing to take this opportunity to advise one thing more concerning the use of this catechism, which I have found very beneficial, viz. That the learners be put in their answers to turn the question into a proposition, which they will easily do with a little direction. Example—Is man a reasonable creature? Yes: man is a reasonable creature; for there is a spirit in man, &c And this will lead them, when the question gives occasion for it, to make application to themselves. Again, Is your business in the world to serve the flesh? No: It is not my business in the world to serve the flesh; for we are not debtors to the flesh.

DISCLAIMER: Creeds, catechisms, and confessions do not replace Scripture, nor the authority of Scripture. The creeds, catechisms and confessions are included herein for purposes of reference. Blue Letter Bible aims to provide resources that cover a range of traditional, orthodox, conservative Christianity, for the benefit of all of our users. The inclusion of the creeds, catechisms, and confessions does not necessarily mean that the ministry agrees with each and every point in each, since some are coming from different Christian perspectives of faith, practice and worship. The user may find them useful as tools to assist in understanding or teaching the Scriptures, since they were drafted based upon Scripture. Used in their proper context, they can continue to aid us as much today as they did for our forefathers in centuries past.

CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.

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