Imatges de pÓgina

had himself, the year before, anno 1548, drawn up a catechism for the instruction of young persons in the grounds of the Christian religion; and, in his dedication of it to the king, complained very much of the neglect of catechizing in former times: but yet still this work continued in the same state; nor was any thing more done in it by public authority, till about four years after; when, together with the Articles of Religion, another catechism* was composed and published in Latin, and all school-masters enjoined by the king's command to instruct their scholars in it. And here I take the complete model of our Churchcatechism to have been first laid: to the explication of the Creed, the Commandments, and the Lord's Prayer, was added a short account of the two sacraments; and to some or other of these, whatsoever was most necessary to be known or believed by every Christian, was orderly, though briefly reduced.

No sooner was the unhappy stop of this exercise, which followed under Queen Mary's reign, removed by her death, but Queen Elizabeth† returned to the same order that her brother, King Edward the Sixth, had established. She required the parsons and vicars, every holy-day, to recite the Creed, the Lord's Prayer, and Ten Commandments in English, that their pa

Anno 1553. Catechismus brevis Christiana Disciplinæ summam continens, omnibus Ludi-Magistris autoritate Regiâ commendatus. † Anno 1559. Queen Elizabeth's Injunctions, n. 5. 44.

rishioners might both learn themselves, and teach their children the same. And she enjoined them every holy-day, and every second Sunday in the year, to hear and instruct the youth of their parish, for half an hour at least before Evening-prayer, in the Ten Commandments, the articles of the Belief, and the Lord's Prayer; and diligently to examine them, and teach them the catechism set forth in the Book of Public Prayer.

About three years after it was agreed by the Queen's commissioners, * that besides the catechism for children which are to be confirmed, another somewhat longer should be devised for communicants; and a third in Latin, for schools. What was done as to the former of these I cannot tell; but for the latter, I find that in the convocation† which met the next year, such a catechism was drawn up and agreed to by the lower house, and brought up by the prolocutor to the upper. But though that synod continued to sit above a month afterwards, yet it does not appear that any thing more was done in this matter till about eight years after; when Dean Nowel published his Catechism, which had been before pre

* Anno 1561. Vid. Synod. MSS. in Col. C. C. Cantabr.

+ Act. Convoc. 1562, die Mercur. 3 Martii, where it is called Catechismus Puerorum.


Both his larger and lesser Catechisms were published, anno

sented to, and in good measure agreed upon, in that convocation.

It would be too tedious to mention all the following orders which were made, as well by the bishops and clergy in their synods, as by our succeeding princes, and even by the parliament itself, for the diligent discharge of this necessary duty. How strictly the ministers were enjoined to instruct the younger pèrsons of their parishes in their catechism; and parents and masters required to send their children and servants to be instructed by them. By the constitutions of 1571,* every rector and vicar was obliged, upon every Sunday and holy-day, to spend two hours after dinner in this work and lest their parishioners should neglect to attend it, it was ordered, that no one should come to the holy communion, or answer for a child in baptism, or contract marriage, who had not first learned the catechism, so as to be able readily to answer to all the parts of it.

This was reinforced in the synod of 1575, † and confirmed, as the other before had been, by the Queen's authority: and when Archbishop Whitgift understood that this profitable exercise began, nevertheless, to be too much neglected both by the ministers and people, he not only remonstrated to his suffragans the sad effects of it, but earnestly exhorted

Sparr. Collect. p. 233.

Append. to my State of the Church, p. 231.

and required them* in the fear of God, according to their pastoral care, and for the duty which they owed both to God and his church, to give straight charge to both; and to see that the children, and other ignorant persons, were duly instructed and examined in their catechism, as by the orders of the church they ought to be.

I shall not need to tell you how this matter was settled by the canons of 1604:† only with regard to the minister's obligation I must observe, that to secure his care in this particular, the first neglect was, upon complaint, decreed to be an admonition from the bishop, with a sharp reproof; the second suspension; and the third excommunication. 'Tis true, upon the last revision of the Book of Common Prayer, there is some change made as to the time when this office is to be performed: for whereas before, both by the rubric of our liturgy, and by the canon made agreeably thereunto, the curate of every parish was directed to instruct and examine the children of his parish before evening-prayer began; it is now appointed to be done in time of divine service, immediately after the second lesson; that so not only the greater number may attend upon this office, but the whole might be performed with the greater care

* Anno 1591. Reg. Whitgift, vol. i. fol. 181.

† See Can. lix.

Anno 1661. See the rubric before the Church Catechism.

and solemnity. But still, as to the substance of the duty, it remains as it did; and both the curate is obliged upon Sundays and holy-days, openly to instruct the children of his parish in the Church Catechism; and the fathers, mothers, masters, and dames are required to see that their children, servants, and apprentices, who have not learned their catechism, do come to be instructed by him. If the minister* neglects his duty, the penalty of the canon I before mentioned is still in force against him: if the people omit theirs, they are to be suspended by the ordinary; and if they so persist by the space of a month, they also are to be excommunicated.

How wise the constitution of our church in this respect, as well as in its other establishments, is, it would be needless for me to observe to you. The reason of the thing itself sufficiently speaks it: for as by the sermon in the morning, those who are of riper years, and better knowledge in the Gospel of Christ, are edified and instructed; so by teaching and expounding the catechism in the afternoon, the younger and more ignorant, (who are not yet capable of profiting by sermons,) are informed and trained up with such a sort of learning as is suitable to their age and capacities. And yet, alas! how has this prudent and useful method been slighted by many, and neglected by more! and instead of these cate

. Can. lix.

« AnteriorContinua »