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MASTERS AND COVERNORS
Belonging to my Congregation.
SOME dedicate their books unto Lords and Ladies, or other great persons, such possibly I might find out, had I a mind to seek : But as my love is most endeared unto you, to whom I stand so nearly related ; so my, greatest ambition is to be serviceable to your souls. Your cordial and constant love (to me and my labours in a whiffling age) of which you have given many manifest proofs, deserveth a greater expression of my grateful sense, than the dedication of this book unto you.
God, by bringing you under my ministry, hath given me the charge of your souls ; and God, by bringing persons into your families, hath given you the charge of their souls. Our charge is great, and to be guilty of the ruin of souls, is dreadful ! Happy shall we be, if we be found faithful to our own and others souls, in the great day of accounts. Too many, even in our nation and city perish, and run blindfold into hell, for want of knowledge, for want of instruction ; and as no way of instruction doth convey clearer light of distinct knowledge in the principles of religion, than the way of catechising; so the neglect of this in ministers and masters of families, is such a sin of un
faithfulness unto the souls of them that are under their charge, for, all of us should take heed we have it not to answer for, at the appearance of our Lord. It is not sufficient for you that you bring your children and servants to receive public instruction : but it is your duty also to instruct them privately, and at home to examine them in their Catechisms. I know no Catechism more full of light and sound doctrine, than the Shorter Catechism of the reverend Assembly ; which because in many answers there are things not easy to be understood by beginners ; therefore in this, my application of it, I have taken pains to take abroad every answer, to open it in several, under questions and answers, and to confirm the truths there by reason and scripture-proofs : which I have endeavoured to do as plainly and familiarly as I could, that every thing therein may be the more intelligible and useful unto such as either learn or read it. Some chief controversies in religion I have touched upon, briefly propounding arguments for the backing of truth, and not left objections wholly unanswered, which I have the rather done, that all of you, especially the more unexperienced young ones under you, might get some armour against every where prevailing error. You know that some have committed the whole, so far as we have gone, unto memory; how beneficial they have found this, others besides themselves may speak. Yet 'all have not that strength of memory, neither would I impose this explanation to be learned without the book at all. Yet this I advise, that you who are: masters of families, would set apart time twice, or at: least once every week, lo examine your children and servants in the Assembly's Catechism, taking Mr. Lye's excellent method in the way of asking questions, whom God hath made singularly useful in diffusing much light among young ones. And after they have given you the answers without book which are in the Catechism, that then yourselves would read, or cause one of them to read some of this explanation on these answers, so far as you can well go at: at a time i and if each of them that can read, should
both in your families and in your assembly have one of these explanations in their hands to read, along with them that read, or publicly answer, they would the better attend and understand what is read or anor - swered: which course, I apprehend, will exceedingly tend to their great profit ; and that such as do this with dilligence, will through God's grace) attain in a short time proficiency in the best knowledge, which is such a jewel, that none, methinks should be contented without, when for less labour than for jewels of inferior value it may be obtained. This Explanatory Catechism was chiefly (if not only) intended for you, and the use of such as are of my own congregation : which if it may find acceptation also with, and prove beneficial unto other families ; I shall rejoice, the more generally useful these poor labours are, as it will tend so much the more to the glory of my great Master, so it will yield to myself the greatest comfort, especially in a dying hour. I shall take my leave of you, though I be not departing from you, with the departing exhortation of ihe apostle Paul, Acts xx. 32. • And now brethren I commend you to "God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to • build you up, and to give you an inheritance among "all them which are sanctified.' Your soul's earnest well-wisher,
THE YOUNG ONES
ESPECIALLY THOSE THAT ANSWER THIS EXPLICATO
RY CATECHISM IN OUR PUBLIG ASSEMBLY.
SHOULD I leave you out of my dedication of this book, I might seem both injurious unto you, for whose sake chiefly the book itself was composed, and jojurious to my own love which I have for you, so many ways endeared, whereby also I am strongly obliged to do all the service I can for your souls. Your reciprocal love is a great tye: but the chief obligation of all, is the near relation between us, when I can write to you, not as my hearers only, but to many of you as my children; and that I may say in the words of the apostle, 1 Cor. iv, 15. (which I desire to speak not to my own, but to the praise and glory of God, through whose blessing alone it is, that my ministry, so mean comparatively, hath had this effect.) Though you should have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers : For in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel. My endeavours are (as a father his children) to feed you with knowledge and understanding, and that of incomparably the most excellent things. Had you as large understanding in the secrets and mysteries of nature, as the greatest and most wise philosopher, Solomon himself not excepted. Had you skill in all languages under heaven, and could speak with the tongues of men and angels, yet all human knowledge in the greatest height and improvement of it, would not be worthy to be compared and named the same day with the knowledge of Jesus Christ, and the mysteries of salvation, with which I would acquaint you. You have seen the light of the moon, and some brightness in the stars, when the curtains of the night have been drawn over the heavens, all which luminaries upon the rising of the sun with its most glorious light, have disappeared and shrunk out of light into darkness ; such is the light of human knowledge compared with the beams of divine light, which doth issue forth from the sun of righteousness. It is the light of the knowledge of the will, and ways, and glory of God in the face of JESUS Christ, that I desire to hold forth unto you. The whole scripture is full of this light: but as in the moon, some parts are clearer than other, so in the holy scriptures, some parts are more full of this light: such are those parts which contain the chief things to be known and believed, to be done and practised in order unto salvation. These things are excellently reduced by the late reverend Assembly, into Questions and Answers in their Shorter Catechism. In this Catechism, I have been some years instructing some of you ; and that you might the better understand what you there learn, I did above four years ago begin the explanation of it, which at first you had in writing; and upon your desire afterwards, I put it sheet after sheet, as you learned it, in the press for you. The often failure of the printer hath caused many interruptions, and intermissions in our work; therefore having finished the whole, I have now print. ed the whole together, that we be not broken off upon that account any more: Which as the fruit of much study, and as a token of most dear love, I present unto you. And now (Dear Young Ones) think not much in taking pains in learning that which hath cost me so much pains in composing for you. Such of you as have no time or strength of memory for the learning of it, I advise to the frequent reading of it: And