July 2020

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Last week we finished the final question of the Westminster Shorter Catechism, Question 107, as explained and applied by the Rev. William Smith. Our posting of those entries was drawn from a rather rare little work that, to our knowledge, has never been reprinted.

But now we must make a decision. Where to go next? Our practice on the Lord’s Day has been to set aside Presbyterian history and post things that would draw our hearts to worship. And while we take a bit of time to make that decision, for today we would like to sample a wonderful little book that would be great to have for morning devotions. I’m speaking of A Basket of Fragments. Notes for Revival, by Robert Murray McCheyne, and please do consider getting a copy. Our post for today provides the first half of this powerful evangelistic sermon:

High Time to Awake Out of Sleep.

And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. (Rom. 13:11).

In these words, Paul tells believers that it is waking time; and I would just tell you, dear friends, that same. It is high time for you to awake out of sleep. There  is a condition among Christians which may be called sleeping; like the ten virgins, they slumber and sleep. Ah! I fear there are many sleeping Christians among you. It is waking time, believer. Do you know what o’clock it is? You do not seem to know how near sunrise it is.

I will now show you what it is to be sleeping Christians. It is to be one that has come to Christ, yet has fallen asleep in sin. Like the Church at Ephesus, they have left their first love. They do not retain that realization of the Christ’s preciousness—that freshness of believing. They have forgotten the fresh grasp of a Saviour. Si it is with some among yourselves. You may have seen your sins; yet you have lost that fresh conviction of sin you once felt so deeply. You do not see such a beauty in Jesus. The more we look at Him, just the more we would look again. Earthly things pall upon the taste; but it is not so with things divine—they grow sweeter the oftener you use them. So every time you look at Jesus, He grows more precious. The rose is sweet, yet it loses its smell; but the lovely Rose of Sharon grows sweeter and sweeter. Earthly apples lose their taste; but the apple-tree does not so—‘Stay me with flagons, comfort me with apples, for I am sick of love’ (Song. 2:5). Sleepy Christians, you have lost taste for the apples. Oh! Is it not time for you to awake out of sleep? Believer, if you sleep on, you will soon doubt if ever you have come to Christ at all.

To awake out of sleep, then, is to see that divine things are realities. When you are half asleep, you see things imperfectly. Ah! You are not affected by divine realities. Now, what is it to awake out of sleep? To awake out of sleep is to see sin as it is—your heart as it is—Christ as He is—and the love of God in Christ Jesus. And you can see all this by looking to Calvary’s cross. Oh it is an awful thing to look to the cross and not be affected, nor feel conviction of sin—nor feel drawn to Christ! Oh I do not know a more sad state than this! Oh pray that you may be wide awake! Dear friends, our life is like a river, and we are like a boat sailing down that river. We are drawing nearer and nearer to the shores of eternity. Some of you have believed for forty years. Ah! Your salvation is nearer than when you first believed. Your redemption draweth nigh—the redemption of your whole soul—your complete redemption. And the time is coming when we will get it—you will be saved, and then the last stone will be put on with shoutings of ‘Grace! Grace! Unto it.’ Then will the crown be put upon your heads for you will be more than conquerors.

Dear friends, I do not know how far the day is spent. This is a dark, dark time; but the day is breaking—the shadows are fleeing away. The river Euphrates is drying up—that shows the day is breaking. The Jews, God’s ancient people, are being brought in, and that shows the day is far spent.

And it is also high time for unconverted men to awake out of sleep. O sinners! You are fast asleep, you are lying dormant—dead! O sleepy souls! It is high time you should awake! Do you know what angels said when they went to and fro upon the earth? They told the Lord, ‘Behold, all the earth sitteth still and is at rest’ (Zech. 1:11). Ah! You are fast asleep. God has given you the spirit of slumber. Do you not remember the message to Amos: ‘Woe to them that are at ease in Zion’ (Amos 6:1)? And that is the case with many of you. When you come to this house, you are in a place where Jesus has called sleepy souls, and where He has been found of very many. O sleeping souls, it is high time for you to awake! You are living in a dream. Every Christless man will find at last that he has been dreaming. Ah! The time is coming when you shall find that your following after gold is but a golden dream. And is there no pleasure in a dream? Who has not felt that there is pleasure even in dreams? But, Ah! You must awake. Like a man condemned to die (and many of you are condemned already), he dreams of home, of his wife and children; of freedom and pleasure; but, ah! He awakes by the toll of the death-bell, and he finds that—behold it was but a dream! Now, unconverted men, you are taking a sleep; but, like the man, you will awake form a bright dream to a bitter reality.

Dear friends, I often think when I look at your houses as I pass along, and when I look in your faces, that ministers are like watchmen—they see the fire and they give the alarm. Many of you are in danger as one in a burning house. Sometimes you wonder at our anxiety for you. Sometimes you say, ‘Why are you so harsh?’ O poor soul! It is because the house is on fire. Oh then, can we speak too harshly?—can we knock too loudly at the door of your consciences? I remember what a woman once told John Newton on her deathbed: she said ‘You often spoke to me of Christ; but oh! You did not tell me enough about my danger.’ Oh! I fear many of you will tell me the same. Oh! I fear many may reproach me on a deathbed, or in hell, that I did not tell you oftener that there was a hell. Would to God I had none to reproach me at last! God help me to speak to you plainly! It is high time to awake out of sleep, sinner: for now your damnation slumbereth not. Dear friends, it is now more than three years since I first spoke to you, though it just seems like a day since I first came beseeching you to be reconciled to God—beseeching you to come to Jesus. Every day that passes is bringing you nearer to the judgment-seat. Not one of you is standing still. You may sleep; but the tide is going on, bringing you nearer death, judgment and eternity.

Our selection for today is Dr. David W. Hall’s review of a sermon by the Rev. Charles Chauncy:—

“Civil Magistrates Must be Just, Ruling in the Fear of God”
by Charles Chauncy (May 27, 1747)

Charles Chauncy (1705-1787) was one of the most influential pastors in Boston during his life. He received his theological training at Harvard and served as pastor of First Church for nearly 60 years. He wrote numerous pamphlets between 1762-1771 against the British proposal to impose a Bishop in America. This sermon preached in 1747, addressed to rulers (the Governor, the council, and the Massachusetts House of Representatives), called them to be just and frequently to recall their subordination to God. Original punctuation has been preserved. He drew upon an often used text from 2 Samuel 23—a passage that was a slam dunk for pastors comparing candidates to unchanging norms. He began: “there are none in all the Bible, applicable to civil rulers, in their public capacity, of more solemn importance.”

Viewing these as the last sentiments of David, Chauncy’s outline was:

  1. There is a certain order among mankind, according to which some are entrusted with power to rule over others.
  2. Those who rule over others must be just, ruling in the fear of God.
  3. The whole will then be applied to the occasions of the day.

In his first section, an apology for government in general, Chauncy observed: “Order and rule in society, or, what means the same thing, civil government, is not a contrivance of arbitrary and tyrannical men, but a regular state of things, naturally resulting from the make of man, and his circumstances in the world.” Human sin necessitated this. As both Calvin and Madison had noted, “If men were angels, no government would be necessary.” While government in general was ordained by God, the particulars could and did vary.

Government was “not a matter of mere human prudence, but of moral necessity. It does not lie with men to determine at pleasure, whether it shall or shall not take place; but, considering their present weak, exposed and dependent condition, it is unalterably right and just there should be rule and superiority in some, and subjection and inferiority in others: And this therefore is invariably the will of God; his will manifested by the moral fitness and reason of things.”

However, under the second head, the manner of rulers was prescribed. The first quality (and the one with the most discussion in this sermon) was for ruler to be just. One of Chauncy’s full elaborations of justice was:

They should do it by appearing in defense of their liberties, if called in question, and making use of all wise and suitable methods to prevent the loss of them: Nor can they be too active, diligent or laborious in their endeavors upon this head: Provided always, the privileges in danger are worth contending for, and such as the people have a just right and legal claim to. Otherwise, there may be hazard of losing real liberties, in the strife for those that are imaginary; or valuable ones, for such as are of trifling consideration.

They should also express this care, by seasonably and faithfully placing a proper guard against the designs of those, who would rule in a despotic manner, to the subversion of the rights naturally or legally vested in the people.

They were to be just in their use of power (not encroaching due liberties) and also just in regard to “the laws by which they govern.” He articulated this second rung of justice as “They should not, when upon the business of framing and passing acts, suffer themselves to be swayed by any wrong bias, either from self-will, or self-interest; the smiles or frowns of men greater than themselves; or the humor of the populace: But should bring the proposed laws to a fair and impartial examination.” He warned against “framing mischief by a law.” Just rulers would also punish evildoers and maintain honest economic standards.

Surely with the book of Proverbs’ admonition toward just weights and measures in mind, Chauncy also applied:

And if justice in rulers should show itself by reducing the things that are bought and sold to weight and measure, much more ought it to be seen in ascertaining the medium of trade, as nearly as may be, to some determinate value. For this, whether it be money, or something substituted to pass in lieu of it, is that for which all things are exchanged in commerce. And if this, which is of such universal use in the affair of traffic, be a thing variable and uncertain, of one value this week, and another the next, it is difficult to conceive, how justice should take place between man and man, in their dealings with one another.

Justice also called for right execution of laws and for the appointment of just persons to carry out those just laws. Justice was called for in terms of debt—not a light matter; and justice was to be a guarantor of liberties. Not only could liberties be threatened by those of high office, but Chauncy also warned about excessive populism: “The men who strike in with the popular cry of liberty and privilege, working themselves, by an artful application to the fears and jealousies of the people, into their good opinion of them as lovers of their country, if not the only stanch friends to its interests, may, all the while, be only aiming at power to carry every thing according to their own sovereign pleasure: And they are, in this case, most dangerous enemies to the community.”

A ruler could, thus, err in many ways. The standards for office were high, according to the Hebrew standards and to those of early America. Chauncy put it this way:

If it is their business to act as executioners of justice, they must faithfully inflict the adjudged sentence: In doing of which, though there may be room for the exercise of compassion, especially in the case of some sort of debtors; yet the righteousness of the law may not be eluded by needless, much less fraudulent delays, to the injury of the creditor.

In fine, whatever their trust is, whether of less or greater importance, they must exercise it with care, fidelity, resolution, steadiness, diligence, and an entire freedom from a corrupt respect to men’s persons, as those who are concerned for the honor of government, and that its laws may take effect for the general good of the community.

He charged the General Court to apply themselves to these standards of justice. He further reminded his listeners that they were responsible to God, specifically telling them “that they are accountable to that Jesus, whom God hath ordained to be the judge of the world, for the use of that power he has put into their hands.” The latter part of this sermon provides a discussion of the fear of the Lord, with the injunction that rulers were to keep that in mind in their activities and decisions. This aspect was salutary as follows: “But no restraints are like those, which the true fear of God lays upon men’s lusts. This habitually prevailing in the hearts of rulers, will happily prevent the out-breaking of their pride, and envy, and avarice, and self-love, and other lusts, to the damage of society; and not only so, but it will weaken, and gradually destroy, the very inward propensities themselves to the various acts of vice. It naturally, and powerfully, tends to this: And this is the effect it will produce, in a less or greater degree, according to the strength of the religious principle, in those who are the subjects of it.”

Chauncy’s sermon wraps up with specific charges to the rulers to apply these standards. Somehow, I doubt that the need for fear of God as discussed above, or the requirement to be just, has been altered by time or circumstance.

A printed copy of this sermon is available in my 1996 Election Day Sermons and is also available in Ellis Sandoz, Political Sermons of the American Founding Era(Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1998). The sermon is online at: http://quod.lib.umich.edu/e/evans/N04742.0001.001?rgn=main;view=fulltext.

By Dr. David W. Hall, Pastor
Midway Presbyterian Church

It was an astonishing request by the Secretary of War in Abraham Lincoln’s cabinet. Unable to join the Pennsylvania Reserves in the Civil War due to an abundance of volunteers, a captain in the western part of Pennsylvania had requested Secretary Cameron for permission to raise an independent regiment for the war effort. To Captain (and later Colonel) Leisure, the Secretary had responded to the question with “Yes, Captain, if they will be men that will hold slavery to be a sin against God and a crime against humanity, and will carry their Bibles into battle.” Carry their Bibles into battle? What military recruiter today lays down that requirement? The good captain answered “I have no other to bring.” And with that, what became known as the Roundheads, the One Hundreth Pennsylvania Volunteer Regiment came into existence in 1861.

From a love of their country, some 1400 men from the counties of Washington, Lawrence, Butler, Beaver, Mercer, and Westmoreland in western Pennsylvania, all of them being Psalm-singing Presbyterians and Covenanters, entered the Union war effort to fight for their country. They were to fight in some of the bloodiest contests of the entire war, engaging the Confederates at Bull Run, Fredericksburg, Knoxville, the Wilderness, Spottsylvania, Cold Harbor, Petersburg, and Appomattox. During this time, they kept their biblical faith.

In Horatio Hackett’s book “Christian Memorials of the War,” we read the following account of a chaplain’s worship service on page 28: “It was my lot to meet the Roundheads, officers and men, for the first time in the house of God, the Sabbath after I landed in Beaufort, December twenty-second. The chaplain of the regiment, Rev Robert A. Brown, of Newcastle, Pa, lay ill of fever at that time, and the colonel had invited me to preach to them at the usual hour of morning worship. The appointment was made accordingly; and at bell-ringing the colonel marched his men, nine hundred strong, into the Baptist meeting-house, under arms, and with measured tread; but quiet and reverent, as became the place, the service, and the day. It was an impressive spectacle. The soldiery, intermingled with members of other corps, filled the entire area of the lower floor, and most of the spacious galleries, which projected on either side. At the end stood, close crowded together, groups of ‘colored people.’ There, listening to the word of God, or rising in prayer, or singing, after their ancient metrical version, some of the Psalms of David, the Roundheads joined in worshiping the God of their Fathers, – their God and our God, – just as they had been wont to worship, in their several sanctuaries, with kindred and friends at home.”

Their service brought casualties to their ranks, with nearly as many dying of disease as from the wounds of war. And at the end of the war, on this day, July 24, 1865, they were mustered out, to go home to their loved ones and friends, mindful of their faithful service to God and their chosen country.

Words to Live By:
Sometimes our convictions of faith brings us into difficult days associated with conflict. Our faithfulness to God doesn’t end on those occasions with regards to God and His Word. It continues to persevere in difficult days as well as peaceful days. Let us be faithful to bring God’s Word, the Bible, with us everywhere we go, but especially in our hearts. In fact, prepare today, or continue today, by memorizing significant texts and chapters of God’s Word. In that way, you will have this means of grace available for your spiritual needs when you need its comforting words.

“The Shorter Catechism fought through successfully the Revolutionary war.”—A.A. Hodge.

Today’s post comes from the pen of the Rev. Dr. W.W. (Walter William) Moore [June 14, 1857-June 14, 1926], who, after a few brief pastorates, served first as professor of Hebrew and Old Testament at Union Theological Seminary in Richmond, Virginia, 1886-1915 and then as president of that same institution from 1904 until his death in 1926. The following article comes from THE NORTH CAROLINA PRESBYTERIAN, vol. 40, no. 2 (13 January 1898): 2.

by Rev. W.W. Moore, D.D. (Walter William Moore, 1857-1926)

Civil liberty and religious liberty go hand in hand. As men settle the question of church power, so they are likely to settle the question of civil power. If they rest church power in the clergy they are likely to rest civil power in kings and nobles. Hence the remark of Lord Bacon that “Discipline by bishops is fittest for monarchy of all others.” If, on the other hand, men rest church power in the people, in the church itself, as Presbyterians do, then they will hold that civil power also rests in the people, and that all civil rulers are the servants of the people. So Dr. Paxton has said, “If there is liberty in the church there will be liberty in the State; if there is no bishop in the church there will be no tyrant on the throne.”

Hence it is that modern tyrants have with one consent recognized that Presbyterianism was their natural enemy and have hated and feared it accordingly. Charles II. pronounced Calvinism a religion not fit for a gentleman. Charles I. said: “The doctrine (of the Presbyterians) is anti-monarchical,” and he added that “there was not a wiser man since Solomon than he who said, ‘No Bishop, no King.’” James I., born and reared a Scot, spake what he knew when he said at the Hampton Court Conference, “Ye are aiming at a Scots Presbytery, which agrees with monarchy as well as God and the devil.” History has demonstrated that the views thus expressed by the Stuart kings were absolutely correct. By its doctrine of personal liberty Presbyterianism has emphasized the worth of the individual. By its republican polity it has rested the power of government in the people, and administered it through representatives of the people chosen by the people. And, as a natural consequence, it has in every age been the chief educator of the people in the principles of civil liberty, and has in every land reared the noblest champions of human freedom. And so the Westminster Review, which is certainly no friend of our faith, says: “Calvin sowed the seeds of liberty in Europe,” and again, emphatically, “Calvinism saved Europe.” Castelar, the eloquent Spaniard, says: “The Anglo-Saxon democracy is the product of a severe theology,” learned in the cities of Switzerland and Holland, “and it remains serenely in its grandeur, forming the most dignified, most moral, most enlightened and richest portion of the human race.”

Macaulay has shown that the great revolution of 1688, which gave liberty to England, was in a great measure due to the heroism of the Presbyterians of Scotland, who at Drumclog contended for Christ’s Crown and Covenant against the dragoons of Claverhouse, whose blood crimsoned the heather at Bothwell Bridge and Ayrsmoss, and whose brethren in Ireland resisted to the death the army of King James at Derry. Ranke, the great historian of Germany, says: “John Calvin was virtually the founder of America.”

Bancroft, our own historian, says: “We are proud of the free States that fringe the Atlantic. The Pilgrims of Plymouth were Calvinists; the best influence in South Carolina came from the Calvinists of France. William Penn was the disciple of the Huguenots; the ships from Holland that first brought colonists to Manhattan were filled with Calvinists. He that will not honor the memory and respect the influence of Calvin knows but little of the origin of American liberty.” Rufus Choate says: “I ascribe to Geneva an influence that has changed the history of the world. I trace to it the opening of another era of liberty; the republican constitution framed in the cabin of the Mayflower, the divinity of Jonathan Edwards, the battle of Bunker Hill, and the independence of America.”

These, be it remembered, are all disinterested testimonies by men who are not themselves Presbyterians. One of them, Bancroft, adds this further statement of fact: “The first voice publicly raised in America to dissolve all connection with Great Britain came, not from the Puritans of New England, not from the Dutch of New York, not from the planters of Virginia, but from the Scotch-Irish Presbyterians of North Carolina.” The Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence, in May 1775, was the work of Presbyterians exclusively, nine of its signers being Presbyterian elders and one a Presbyterian minister. Fourteen months after that memorable action, when, in Philadelphia, the Colonial Congress was hesitating to pass the Declaration of National Independence, it was the eloquence of an illustrious Presbyterian that swept the waverers to a decision, John Witherspoon, the president of Princeton, the only minister of any denomination who signed that immortal document.

Later still, in one of the darkest hours of the Revolution, Washington, himself connected with the Episcopal Church, said that should all his plans be crushed, he would plant his standard on the Blue Ridge, and rallying round him the Scotch-Irish of the Valley, make a final stand for freedom on the Virginia frontier. To this sterling strain, it has been said, belongs the unique distinction of being the only race in America that never produced a Tory. Calvinism, in fact, was the backbone of the Revolution. “While the Quakers were non-combatants, and stood aloof from the conflict; while the Episcopalians, as a rule, were against the Colonies and in favor of the crown; while the Methodists followed the mother Church and imitated John Wesley himself in their denunciation of the revolting Americans, the Congregational ministers of New England and the Presbyterian ministers from Long Island to Georgia gave to the cause of the Colonies all that they could give of the sanction of religion.”

As for Presbyterian elders and laymen, when we remember the remark of George Alfred Townsend, ‘When I want to find the grave of an officer in the Revolutionary Army, I go to a Presbyterian graveyard and there I find it;” when we remember that nearly all the officers in command at King’s Mountain, the most successful battle save one that was ever fought by American arms, were Presbyterian elders and that their troops were mustered from Presbyterian settlements; when we remember that General Morgan and General Pickens, who turned the whole tide of the war at the Cowpens, were Presbyterian elders; when we remember that after his surrender at Saratoga, Burgoyne said to Morgan concerning his Scotch-Irish riflemen, “Sir, you have the finest regiment in the world;” when we remember that Generals Moultrie, Sullivan, Sumter, Stark, Knox, Routledge, Wayne, and scores of other officers, as well as thousands of the Revolutionary rank and file, were of the same sturdy stock, it is hardly too much to say with Dr. Archibald Hodge that “The Shorter Catechism fought through successfully the Revolutionary war.”

The following article, though written from the perspective of a concern within Congregational churches in the early 19th century, has much that is applicable for us today.  One key point is made in the statement that “Doctrinal  standards give stability, and secure uniformity of sentiment and discipline.”Dr. John Leith made this same point, though more extensively, some years ago in his Warfield Lecture, “Reformed Preaching Today.” Among other points, Leith stressed that the recovery of great preaching requires a well-educated congregation that can track with the pastor’s sermons:

 The recovery of great preaching calls for the revival of the Christian community as a disciplined, knowledgeable, worshiping community of people. The recovery of preaching and the recovery of the community will have to take place together, because there can be no recovery of a vital Christian community, well informed, apart from the recovery of great preaching. And on the other hand, a great congregation makes a great preacher.

And catechesis is the indisputable foundation of a great congregation!

The Assembly’s Shorter Catechism

[The Charleston Observer, 10:29 (16 July 1836): 113.]

            In this age of change and boasted improvement, we have witnessed with regret, the increasing disposition of Christians to depart from ancient standards and formularies of doctrines. How far the love of novelty has influence in producing this state of things, we are not prepared to say. The fact is that innovations and changes are easily effected, and the old paths are forsaken; often, seemly because they are old and have been trodden by men of other ages, and new ones are chosen, seemingly because they are new and without examination, whether they will conduct safely or not.

            Perhaps in no portion of the Christian church has the change been greater, than in the congregational churches of Connecticut; ancient standards of doctrine in these churches, have been suffered to pass away, not by a public and formal objection, but by silent neglect on the part of individual churches in order to accommodate and receive to their communion such as would dissent from doctrines contained in their old standards. To this as one cause silently operating, may be traced as we believe the gradual decrease of the congregational churches in Connecticut, and the increase of other denominations. Doctrinal standards give stability, and secure uniformity of sentiment and discipline, and then adhered in the denominations embracing them, they serve to strengthen and increase that denomination but when such standards are trodden down or thrown aside, the denomination is changed in its distinctive character, notwithstanding the name should be still retained.

            The Saybrook Platform, on whose doctrinal basis, the Congregational churches of Connecticut are organized, and on whose articles of agreement in discipline, they have been consociated, have become an obsolete book—it is but little known—and scarcely to be found in a bookstore for sale. By many of the younger members of these churches, it is doubtful whether it has ever been read. It is not long since that a proposition was made in the General Association of Connecticut that a new edition should be printed, and that it should be recommended to some booksellers to undertake the work.—But the proposition was opposed on the ground that some Congregational pastors could not subscribe to the Platform without reservations in regard to particular doctrines; and after some discussion it was indefinitely postponed. It was apparent, that most of the younger pastors chose to have the Platform lie forgotten and die a natural death if it would. It is well known also, that some of our theological professors cannot subscribe to this manual of doctrine without written reservations. The creed also of individual churches, originally in substance in strict uniformity to the doctrines of the Platform, and of the shorter Catechism, are now subject to frequent alterations. In some, one doctrine is omitted—in others more, and the language throughout changed for the purpose of rendering the doctrines retained more palatable.—Frequent changes of pastors also greatly contribute to changes in the creeds of individual churches; old creeds are thrown by, and new ones substituted to be more accordant with the taste of the age and the supposed improvements in theology.—In this manner, old standards of doctrine are lost sight of, and many of the congregational churches embrace a mixture of Calvinism, Arminianism, and nothingism, and in this state are in danger of crumbling to pieces.

            The loss of the Shorter Catechism to the congregational churches is very great.—When that catechism was taught regularly in our schools and in our families and on the Sabbath it laid a good foundation in the minds of children for religious improvement, a foundation which contributed to consistency and stability in after life. Though children have greater advantages for gaining religious knowledge by means of Sabbath schools and Sabbath school libraries, still, in point of doctrinal stability and knowledge of religious truth, it is questionable whether they are to be compared with what their parents were when they were children. The catechism has gone from families as well as from schools and parents are in danger of leaving their own duty to be performed by Sabbath school teachers and of acting as if the responsibility were taken off from them. Parents should not feel that their own obligations are lessened, while they have the co-operation of Sabbath school teachers. They can do that which no other class of teachers can do in the religious education of children, and all teachers need their co-operation and support. Religious education should be commenced in families and by parents, and it should be conducted under their watchful eye.

            The Assembly’s shorter catechism is a standard manual, which will never wear out. Religious parents have no occasion to be afraid of this, nor to lay it aside as an obsolete catechism, though the phraseology in some trifling particulars might be changed for the better, still as a whole, this catechism is sound—we shall find no better catechism; it has been fully proved, and it will be found safe for the rising generation.—We will remember the time when this catechism was regularly taught in common schools, and under what circumstances it was excluded. We have been associated with school visitors who denounced it and who declared that they would prefer Paine’s Age of Reason to be taught to the children. The fact is the great and essential truths of the Bible are embodied in this catechism, and these truths have always been opposed to the natural heart in man, and infidels and men of loose sentiments have scouted them in past ages, and in the present age they continue to do this.

            We should rejoice to have Christian parents bring back this manual into their families, and to have them teach it to their children and to expound it to them as they are able, and we should also rejoice to see it revived in our Sabbath schools, and adapted as a text book in Bible classes. We have no doubt that the effect would be salutary in forming the character of the rising generation.

            We acknowledge our attachments to this catechism and we view it as a favorable indication, that some pastors of congregational churches are reviving the good old custom of catechising the children of their congregations from this manual and that others are introducing it into their Sabbath schools.—The bringing back of the catechism will be attended with more established views of doctrines in our churches and will have an important influence in guarding the minds of the young from the dangers to which they are exposed, from the cavils of infidels, and the lax sentiments of the age.—[Hartford Watchman.]

[excerpted from The Charleston Observer, Vol. X, no. 29 (16 July 1836): 113, columns 2-3.

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