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How much foever Expounding the Catechifm is defpis'd, the right doing of it, fo as to lay a fure Foundation of Chriftian knowledge, not to be fhaken by the manifold adverfaries of the Truth; and the doing this with that plainness and brevity that are needful for vulgar learners, may be call'd the Master-piece of all learning.
Therefore every Minifter ought to do his utmost herein, and to do it every Sunday and Holy day, as the Rubrick and the 59 Canon require.
In thofe Churches where there is choice of learned men, it ought to be the task of the most learned.
Where there are two fermons in a day, this ought to be inftead of one of them, rather than together with it, that it may be the better remembred. It would be very well done to reftrain the number of fermons, to make way for a more Neceffary and more profitable duty. They do but little more than water pour'd into a fieve, and encourage the error of those who fo place Religion in hearing fermons, as to defpife neceffary knowledge. But people love to have their Minister labour for the wind. And Minifters alfo are too much inclin'd thereto.
Here the Judgment of Bishop Sanderfon delerves to be confider'd. In his Life written by Mr. Walton, is related how, in the times of Confufion, he told Mr. Walton, That the way to reftore this nation to a more meek and Chriftian temper, was to have the body of Divinity (or fo much of it as was needful to be known) to be put into 52 Homilies or Sermons, of fuch a length as not to exceed a third or fourth part of an hours reading: And thefe needful points to be made fo clear and plain, that thofe of a mean capacity might know what was necessary to be believed, and what God requires to be done: And then jome applications of trial and conviction: And thefe to be read every Sunday of the year, as infallibly as the blood circulates the body; And then as certainly begun again, and continued the year following.
To this would be added, That every Sermon be carefully review'd every time it is to be read, and begin with the fum and fubftance of the former, even when it is of a different fubject. Then they would be most agreeable to the words of the Church in the Order of the Baptism of Infants, And that he may know these things the better, ye shall call upon him to hear Sermons.
If thofe Sermons were made in the Order of the Catechifm, and in them alfo were contriv'd the expofition of the more difficult words and places of the Common Prayer, and they were preach'd in the morning; and the fum and fubftance of
them were divided into 13 parts, and one of those parts were read every afternoon, at the time of Catechizing; I believe it will be hard to find a better way of the Sunday teaching for any Parish.
Two Sermons in a day, or one of the ufual length, is too much for ordinary hearers, and is an hindrance to their benefit of hearing the portions of Scripture; the reading of which is furely the best preaching.
But if there must be Sermons besides those now recommended; then let the Directions of King Charles the Second tell what are best. In one of them he requires All Ministers and Preachers in their feveral Cures, not only diligently to apply them felves to Catechize the younger fort, according as in the book of Common Prayer is appointed; but also in their ordinary Sermons to infift chiefly upon Catechetical doctrines, (wherein are contained all the neceffary and undoubted Verities of Chriftian Religion) declaring withal unto their congregations, what influence fuch doc trines ought to have into their lives and converfations, &c: And where there is an afternoon's exercife, that it be especially spent, either in explaining fome part of the Catechifm, or in preaching upon fome fuch Text of Scripture, as will properly and naturally lead to the handling of fomething contained in it, or may conduce to the Expofition of the Liturgy and Prayers of the Church, as occafion fhall be offered; the only caufe why they grew into con tempt among ft the people, being this, that they were not understood.
Altho' the fame Directions were afterwards given by King James the Second: yet nothing could be better for the Advance, ment of the true Proteftant Religion.
It is faid of the Proteftant King James the First, that when complaint was made to him of the growth of popery, turned anfwer, That all this was for want of Catechizing. And the fame, with the fame reason, may be faid of the growth of all fchifm. For what makes any one fubject to error, but the want of knowing the truth? And what makes any one liable to be feduced from the truth, but the want of being well grounded in it? And I cannot but think, that those Disguised Popish Seducers, who are the great Promoters of all our Schifms, to weaken us by Divifion, do likewife promote our Contempt of Catechizing. For nothing in the world does fo much Expofe us to their Delufions.
The fame King James the Firft, in his Letter of Directions to the Lord Archbishop of Canterbury, in the year 1622, orders, That thofe Preachers be most encouraged and approved of, who fpend their afternoons exercife in the Examination of children in their Catechifm, and in the Expounding of the feveral points and
and heads of the Catechifm: which is the most ancient and laudable cuftom of teaching in the Church of England.
And the Lord Archbishop of Canterbury, in his letter thereupon written to the Lord Archbishop of York, fays, So far are thefe Directions from abating, that bis Majefty doth expect at our bands, that they should increase the number of Sermons, by renew ing on every Sunday in the afternoon, in all parish Churches throughout the Kingdom, that Primitive and moft Profitable Expofition of the Catechifm, wherewith the people, yea the very chil dren, may be timely feafoned and inftructed in all the beads of Chriftian Religion. The which kind of teaching (to our Amendment be it fpoken) is more diligently obferved in all the Reformed Churches of Europe, than of late it hath been here in England, I find bis Majefty much moved with this neglect; and refolved (if we that are bis Bishops do not fee a Reformation hereof, which I trust we fall) to recommend it to the care of the Civil Magiftrate.
And in a Sermon preach'd before the fame King James ir the year 1624, by James Ufker Archbishop of Armagh, are thefe words, Your Majefty can never be fufficiently commended, in taking order that the chief beads of the Catechifm bould, in the ordinary Ministry, be diligently propounded and explained unto the people throughout the land. Which I wish were as duly executed every where, as it was piously by you intended. The neglecting of this is the fruftrating of the whole work of the Miniftry. For let us preach never fo many Sermons unto the people, our labour is but loft, fo long as the Foundation is unlaid, and the First Principles untaught, upon which, all other doctrines must be builded.
The neglect therefore of Catechizing, and Expounding the Catechifm in any parish Church whatsoever, is altogether Inexcufable. There can be no reafon (whatever pretence there is) to justify it. And in other Churches, what can be better for the one part of the day, than the conftant Expounding the Catechifm, or the whole Body of Divinity in Order? Where many preach by turns, every one may have his Part affign'd him.
And for this Exercife the Morning is the fittest part of the day. Because this is more Neceffary and more Profitable to all; requires more Learning and Diligence in the Minister, to do it as it ought to be done; and more Attention and Care in the hearer, to understand it duly, than ordinary preaching. Witness the innumerable Errors in Religion; and the many different Opinions among the beft and the most learned of the True Church. Can either Teacher or Learner go fafely through
all thefe, without the moft ferious, and the moft painful Diligence?
And the more Diligence is requir'd, because this Exercife is not to be done with troubling the people with the confutations of errors and different opinions; but by laying the Truth before them fo plainly, and with fuch fatisfactory Proof, as that they shall be well arm'd against any error, whenfoever they hall be tempted to it.
But this Great Important Duty, fo Neceffary to be done by Minifters every Lord's Day, and other Holy days, as is now fhew'd, is also extremely neceffary to be done by them Every day. For all they can do on the Lord's Day (as is obferv'd in the next chapter before) is to little purpose with ordinary capacities, without Daily Inftruction. And there are great numbers of both young and old, who have none to teach them but their Minifter. And whatever others are taught by their Parents or Master, or by their Schoolmistress, or a Schoolmafter of the lower fort, (who must do as well as they can) it is the well Learned, Judicious, and Painful Minister or Schoolmaster, that muft fet the Understandings right of all Learners in the true Expofition both of the Catechism, and of the Prayers of the Church, and fhew them how every thing is prov'd. Bishop Beveridge, in his Preface to his Expofition of the Catechifm, fays, To make children understand every word and expreffion of the Catechifm, as it is necessary they should in order to their being fully inftructed in it; this I think is one of the hardest duties belonging to the Minifterial Office. &c. Herein lies the main Difficulty, even how to poffefs young and ignorant people with a clear UnderStanding, right Apprehenfions, and a due Senfe of all that is contain'd in the Catechifm; that they may become Wife unto Sal
If you only talk or read to them, altho' it be daily; yet what you do is much like what, John 3. 8, our Saviour fays of the wind: they hear the found thereof; but can tell little more of it.
Therefore it is moft neceffary that you make them answer all neceffary questions, and fay and repeat leffons, and go over them again and again, with long Patience, until they are perfectly fettl'd in their Memories. Trial will fhew the truth of this.
And if you diligently teach them the most effectual way, and that every day; yet it is not a few weeks or months, that will make them tolerably fit for Confirmation and the Holy Communion.
This dulnefs is not only in those we call dunces, but in the generality of those who have not their understandings and memories improv'd by education at school, or have learn'd no more than to read or write. Nay the best and wisest have a great share of dulness in the concerns of their Souls. Kings.
6. Ch. 11. I to 9.
But that which is most to be confider'd, is, That all knowledge of Spiritual things, as well plainer as harder, is a Special Gift of God. They are fpiritually difcerned. 1 Cor. 2. 14. And they who are minded either to learn, or to teach them effectually, muft be willing to employ Diligence and Time fuitable to the Worthiness of them.
If the Apostles and their Affiftants were not long in the first inftructions of their converts, they had that miraculous Affiftance which is not now to be hoped for. And we having Christianity planted and fettl'd among us, and the means of learning it from our infancy, and of bringing up our children therein; as children are taught and learn it by flow degrees, and in long time: So they who have neglected the opportunity of Early instruction, either for themselves, or those that belong to them, have no reason to hope that a Late learning or teaching shall be speedily compleated as it ought to be. And accordingly it comes to pafs, that elder ignorant perfons must be taught like children, altho' they have no want of understanding and memory in worldly matters.
If Minifters therefore would bestow an inconfiderable part of convenient time once a day, in teaching the Catechism and Prayers of the Church, to thofe that are willing to learn, after fuch a manner as is directed in the foregoing chapter, they may do a hundred times more good than they can do by their Sermons.
And if these things that have been faid for Minifters Daily Catechizing, be true, (and they that will may find them fo) then there is no want of the most Cogent Reason for this Daily Catechizing even by Minifters. The Advancement of the Glory of God thereby, of the Heavenly Benefit and Honour of the Church, of the Eternal Salvation of Souls, and the Great Reward which they fhall receive, that will fo ferve Chrift †, fhould make a Christian Minister give up himself with all Chearfulness and Diligence to fo Blessed a Work.
For this and other Great Ends, the Refidence of the Shepherd with his Flock fhould be most strictly requir'd. And that
*Ifai. 44. 17 to 21.
† Dan. 12. 3.