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darkness and superstition. But if we condemn every thing that has been abused, we must deprive ourselves of every thing that God has made, or that man has ever devised, for our use. For there is no good thing we can name, but has, in ignorant or designing hands, been perverted to some mischievous or improper purpose.
To avoid these inconveniences as much as possible, I have, in imitation of the simplicity of Dr. Watts, studied to make this catechism, and especially the first part of it, very plain ; and have not introduced into it the technical terms of any particular system of religion whatever. I think I have inserted nothing but what will be acknowledged to belong to common christianity; and I also think, that it contains all the truths of christianity, that can greatly influence men's practice; for these are very few, and such as a child may be made to understand. The whole business of practical preaching, copious as the subject is,
serves only to illustrate and enforce the few plain principles of the first part of this small catechism. .
In this view, it may be of some use to persons whose minds have been bewildered in the labyrinths of theological systems; as they may see, in a small compass, every thing that revelation contains, which can influence the hearts and lives of men, all that is of practical use, and consequently all that is properly fundamental in religion.
However, persons of all parties must, I. think, agree with me in this, that the first part of this catechism contains what is most necessary to be known concerning revelation, and therefore may serve as an introductory catechism, and may not improperly be taught previous to any other, that may be thought to enter more fully into the doctrines of christianity.
I cannot help wishing that ministers in general would draw up their own cate
chisms, and forms of instruction of all kinds. Had this been the practice for a century past, we should have had something excellent in the kind before this time; and no one particular form, as the Assembly's, would have acquired the degree of reverence which sets it upon a level with the scriptures. This idea in a manner, enforces the use of it, and even makes it hazardous for many ministers to attempt to introduce any other, whereby religious knowledge, and all improvements are kept at a stand ; and those ministers who cannot with a good conscience, make use of that catechism, use no catechism at all, and conceive a dislike to the whole business of catechizing.
The age at which it may be proper to teach the first part of this catechism, I think, will be, in general, about four or five. And I think it will not be improper, in some cases, to teach it to servants as well as to children. But every thing of this nature will depend upon particular circum
stances, concerning which the master of a family only can judge.
The second part of the catechism may either be committed to memory, like the first, or not, at the pleasure of the teacher: or some of the answers may be committed to memory, and others not. It may be of : use to young persons either way. I have
endeavoured to make it less theoretical, and more practical than any other catechism that I have seen; and this, I think, is an advantage.
With respect to catechizing, and every other method of communicating instruction to children, let it be considered that it is much more the proper duty of the parent, than of the minister. But I would advise that ministers also give attention to it, and by hearing the children repeat the catechism, either statedly, or occasionally, encourage both parents and children in the exercise. Small rewards, properly distributed may be of use to this purpose.
I shall I shall not, in this place, enlarge upon the motives to a virtuous and religious education of children, to which, I hope, this method of instruction, by catechizing, will contribute. I shall only conclude this preface with observing, that “ This, Parents, “is the greatest benefit you can confer up“ on your children. The riches and ho“ nours of this world are not to be comso pared with the solid advantages of a vir“ tuous and religious education. It is a " debt you owe to society; it is also an im
portant part of the duty you owe to “God, the father of our spirits; and it is, “ at the same time, the best provision you “ can make for the peace and comfort of “ your own future lives. Children that “ have received early and lasting impres“ sions in favour of virtue and religion, “ will be a support to you in life, will
“ ease the pains of death, and be your i “ crown of rejoicing in a better world.