« הקודםהמשך »
without charity, that comprehensive word which includes all the moral virtues, St. Paul emphatically pronounces to be nothing.
But while adverting to the means which are given us to do good unto all men, let us recollect, that we are specially called upon to regard those, who are of the household of faith ; that while desirous of adding to our flock those who have strayed into another fold, imagining it to be that which is governed by the true Shepherd, we should take care to preserve all those who already belong to us, and to protect them from the arts, which will be made use of to delude them. We belong to a Church which declares, “that the Scriptures contain all things necessary to salvation, and that nothing shall be required to be believed as an article of faith, or to be thought necessary to salvation, which cannot be proved thereby.” But that Church has declared what things it holds to be capable of such proof, and consequently requisite to be acknowledged by its members. It is our duty, therefore, to teach what those things are, which our Church believes to be contained in the Scriptures; and as we differ entirely from the Church of Rome in our ideas of the authority of a Church to require implicit submission to its decrees on points of faith, it is our duty also to shew on what proofs those articles of faith are founded.
In this we follow the example of the earliest antiquity, by giving familiar instructions to the ignorant, and requiring from them an account of the profit which they have made by them; and we adopt the advice of a reformer, who of all those that renounced the Church of Rome, was the least likely to be influenced in his opinions by any authority, unless it perfectly agreed with his own judgment. We find Calvin, in treating of the Romish Sacrament of Confirmation, concluding his observations by saying, that the ancient form of confirmation required, that the person to be confirmed should be catechised as to his faith in the face of the congregation. And he then proceeds to give his opinion, that the best mode of catechising would be, to have a formulary writ. ten, containing and familiarly explaining the chief articles of our faith, according to which the interrogatories should be made openly before the congregation : and he adds, that if such discipline prevailed, the parents would be awakened to activity, by the public disgrace attending upon the neglect they were too apt to shew to the education of their children; and that Christians would agree better in their faith, nor through ignorance be liable to be led away by new and strange doctrines, their knowledge being reduced to method (8).
You will observe, my Reverend Brethren, that Calvin, to whom the praise of freedom from worldly mindedness in matters of religion is undoubtedly due, scrupled not to employ the fear of public disgrace as an auxiliary in reli. gious instruction ; he did not deem it sinful to stimulate the parent to exertion by that fear; and it is obvious, that the same influence must have extended itself to the child, who if rejected for his ignorance, must have been exposed equally with his parent to public shame. Calvin, had an objection been made to his so doing, would readily have referred the objector to an authority he could not dare to withstand. He would have quoted St. Paul : Do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same. He would have referred to the still stronger expressions of that great Apostle : Whatsoever things are of good report, if there be any virtue, if there be any praise, think of these things.
Of the manner in which catechetical instruction was carried on in the early ages, we have an account in a treatise of St. Augustine, written expressly upon the subject. (9) The art of printing being then unknown, and of course the arts of reading and writing confined
to a few, it was necessary for the catechist to give oral instruction, and two examples of the nature of that instruction we find in the treatise, to which I refer.
From these it appears, that the instruction was public, and the catechumen publicly interrogated as to his belief, and advantage was taken of the desire of approbation, common to the human mind, in the very outset of the proceeding. It is first inquired, what has induced him to seek to become a Christian? And if to this he gives a satisfactory answer, the catechist is directed, by St. Augustine, “though he believes it to be false, yet to build upon it as if it were true, and to applaud the good design ; as by such appro. bation and praise the catechumen will be induced to wish to be that in reality, which he had only pretended.” And wisely did the good Father judge in giving this advice, for well he knew, that the attention once excited to religious inquiries, though that attention had commenced from a vain and empty cause, yet the mind, under judicious management, would be led into the way of truth, and even he who came to deceive, would learn to pray.
This progress of religion in the soul, St. Augustine appears to have been led to expect, from considering how the fear of God, the lowest motive to obedience, becomes the source
of that love in which the perfection of a Christian consists. He observes, (10) that very few, nay none became Christians who were not in some degree influenced by the fear of God, and he briefly traces their progress. The fear of God leads to the desire of being loved by him that desire suggests the sentiment, that being loved, we should love Him who loved us; and thence immediately springs up the principle of avoiding whatever might be displeasing to God, without any consideration of the consequences that might ensue, which principle is the love of God in its purest form.
Catechetical instruction has been resorted to in Ireland to a very great extent and with very great advantage (11). It has been connected with instruction in the Scriptures calculated not only to preserve our congregations from diminution, but to enable many of them to be ready instruments in the hands of Providence for extending that knowledge, which they possess, to their neighbours who are kept in darkness. Let us pray that such knowledge may be increased, and let us use our best efforts to promote it.
With scarcely an exception, there had long been but one opinion among the Clergy, of every rank, in Ireland, that the system of exa