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O F T H E
The Treliminary Questions,
The Baptismal Covenant.
i Cor, XIV. 12. Seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the Church.
Printed in the Year M.DCC.XXXI. Vol. I. B
E F O R E I enter upon the Explication of our Church-Catechism, which is a brief, but withal a complete, and comprehensive Abridgment of the Christian Religion, 'twill be requisite to premise something touching the Nature, Necessity, and Usefulness of Catechizing. And here, the better to clear our way, I shall begin with the word Catechism, or Catechizing; which coming from the Greek word Ka.n-xj.ia, that signisies to reflect, or return a Sound, denotes a way of Instruction by Question and Answer; where the Learner doth, as it were, echo back, and return the Sound and Sense of the Teacher.
But to go on from the Name to the Thing. Catechism, or Catechizing, may be desin'd to be a general Instruction in the fundamental 'Principles of the Christian Religion, by way of Question and Answer. I style it a general Instruction, to distinguish it from that other way of Teaching, known by the name of Preaching; which descends to the more particular Parts and Duties of Religion. By the fundamental Principles of Christian Religion, I understand the great and necessary Points both of Faith and Practice; which the Catechism is design'd to instruct Children in, in order to the building them up in their most holy Faith, and making them wife unto Salvation. So that Catechizing lays the Foundation of Faith and Knowledge; whereas Preaching raises the Superstructure, and buUdetb
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thereupon: the one sows the Seeds of Grace in the Heart; the other helps it to grow up into a holy Life, and leads Ob to greater Maturity and Perfection. Lastly, I style it a way of Instruction by Question and Answer, whereby Ms farther distinguish'd from 'Preaching ; which is a continu'd Discourse made by the Teacher, without any Reply or Repetition of the Hearer: Whereas here the Catechist instructs by asking of Questions, and the Catechumen learns by returning of Answers. By both which, Knowledge is more eafily institl'd, and likewise makes the deeper and more lasting Impressions on the Mind.
From this brief Description of the Nature, I proceed to The Necessiry of Catechizing; which is indeed requifite to all the Ends of Religion. And here it may not be amiss to observe,
That in the beginning of Christianity, our blessed Saviour and his Apostles having to do with grown Persons, both Jews and Gentiles, this way ot Catechizing went before Baptism, and was a necessary Preparative thereunto: For the Jews being to be converted from Judaism, and the Gentiles from Heathenism to Christianity; 'twas necessary they should unlearn the Rites and Idolatries of the former, before they could receive the Rules, or be initiated into the Mysteries of the latter. And therefore we find, that the Apostlc's Commisfion was to go and teach all Nations, before they baptiz'd them, Mat. 28. 19, 20. That is, being sent to convert rude and barbarous People, that were Aliens to the Commonwealth of Israel, and Strangers to the Covenant of 'Premise, without God, and 'without Christ in the World; they were first to instruct them in the Knowledge of God, and to believe in Christ, before they were to be receiv'd into his Church, or admitted to the Benefits and Privileges of it.
But when these had embrac'd Christianity, and were baptiz'd, the Promise being to them and their Children, who became holy, and were in Covenant bv the Faith of their Parents; their Children were receiv'd to Baptism, and have been admitted into the Church ever fince. Now here Instruction follows Baptism, these being to be taught afterward the Doctrine of the Christian Religion^ into which they have the favour to be initiated before they were Age to understand it. However, we may note,
Secondly, That tho Catechizing sometimes follows Baptism, yet it must always go besore Confirmation, and is a
necessary necessary Preparative to ir. Here, by Confirmation, we understand that solemn renewing and ratifying the Baptismal Vow in our own Persons, when we come to Years of Discretion, that was made in our behalf by Sureties in our Infancy: Which Act is accompany'd with the laving on of Hands, the Blessing and Prayers of the Bishop for Grace to enable us thereunto. This is that laying on of Hands mentions by the Apostle, Heb. 6. i, 2. which is pecuiiar to Confirmation: For tho this Ceremony was used on other Occafions, as particularly in the Ordination of Ministers, yet in the fore-cited place being mention'd immediately after Baptism, and numbred among thofe first Doctrines of Christianity, that belong to all Christians instructed in it, can be meant only of the Use of it in Confirmation; and hath been so understood and practis'd in all Ages of the Christian Chnrch.
Now Catechizing is absolutely necessary to instruct us in the Knowledge of what was undertaken for us in our Baptism, without which we must be. utterly incapable of knowing or receiving any Benefit by Confirmation. Again,
Thirdly, Catechizing is necessary to fit and prepare Christians for the worthy receiving of the Holy Sacrament; for that instructs them in the Nature and End of that great Ordinance, together with the Qualifications requifite to the due Participation of it: So that the omitting or slighting of these Instructions, are the true Reasons why some receive this Holy Sacrament unworthily, and many others receive it not at all. Moreover,
Fourthly, Catechizing is necessary to a future Proficiency by preaching the Word, and all other religious Exercises: for as there is no Building without a Foundation, so neither is there any edifying, or going on to perfection, without laying the Ground-wotk by Catechizing. We may observe some very zealous indeed for Preaching, and calling loudly for Lectures and Sermons; who yet for lack of Catechizing, are ever learning, but never come to the Knowledge of the Truth: and notwithstanding all their goodly Presences to Light and Knowledge, stand in need to be taught what are the first Principles of the Oracles of God. Hence it comes to pass, that so many unhappily mistake the true Means of Edification, and prefer the vain Dreams and Delufions of Mens Fanfies, before wife, wholesem, and pious Instructions. Wherefore,