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TIL NEW YORK
7. Bryer, Printer, Bridewell Hospital, Bridge Street.
THE method of communicating in.
struction by catechising is of great antiquity : but this is not my reason for adopting or recommending it. It seems to be peculiarly adapted to young minds, as it approaches to the ease and freedom of conversation. And since questions resemble those inquiries which children themselves frequently make of their own accord, when they hear or see any thing that they do not understand, this method tends to engage the attention of children much more than talking to them in a continued strain.
Besides, when they are made to repeat a thing themselves, they will more naturally put questions to their instructor, if they do not understand what they are saying, which will properly introduce the A 2
more useful, because the more familiar part of the exercise. For I would propose that the questions in the catechism serve only to point out the principal things about which it may be proper to talk with a child, and that they be broken into a greater number of other questions and answers, too particular to be printed at large, but such as will naturally suggest themselves in the course of catechizing.
It is objected to catechizing, that, in this method of instruction, we teach children the use of words, before we can possibly give them adequate ideas of their meaning; and therefore, that we only lead them to entertain a confused and wrong notion of things. But this is, in fact, the case with almost every word a child learns; and there. is no remedy for it. Children learn all words mechanically, by imitation; and, from the same principle, will even repeat them in connexion with other words, long before they have any tolerable idea of their
meaning, as may be found by questioning them about the words they use. But by using them themselves, and hearing other persons use them, in a great variety of connexions, they learn their true sense by degrees. This, however, is always a work of time.
Besides, an imperfect knowledge of things is often better than no knowledge at all. In this case, if a child do but entértain a very imperfect idea of God, of his duty, and of a future state, he will get such ideas as will be of some use to him at present, but of much more as he grows up; and they will be of much more use then, for having been impressed early, when they could be of little use, or even if they should, at that time, be of no use at all. A reverence for religion, for its general dictates, or even for the words and forms bélonging to it, without any clear ideas, if it be inculcated early, when the mind is tender, and apt to receive impressions,
will lay a foundation for the principle of conscience ; or, however, will come greatly in aid of that principle, and operate as a real restraint upon vice and immorality as long as a person lives. Besides, the ideas that we ourselves, and even the most intelligent of mankind, have of God, and of a future state are, no doubt, very imperfect; yet who can deny their being useful. For my own part, I think I have the greatest reason to be thankful to God for the happiness of a religious education, though I was taught many things I never understood, and even many that I do not believe.
This objection to the business of catechizing, I imagine, took its rise from the style and contents of some particular catechisms, which were drawn up soon after the reformation from popery, and which, were, therefore, necessarily encumbered with the technical terms of a metaphysical system, that had its rise in times of great