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VI.

SERM. to bestow such attention on this branch of

their duty as these early laws seem to require; but I thought it not altogether improper, to make these cursory observations on the change of outward circumstances.

I now proceed to such general observations as I wish to make, on the utility of catechising children, and especially according to the public form provided by the church. There is one objection often made against our Church Catechism, which it certainly is impossible entirely to do away, namely, that it contains many things above the comprehension of children. It must certainly be granted that it does so; but this need not lessen its effect ultimately : the purpose is, to pre-occupy the mind with good principles, before bad ones can have any hold of them; and they must be dealt with, therefore, even perhaps before the very moment is come in which they are strictly capable of comprehending any truths whatsoever: when such important matters may be able to make any impression at all, it may be morally impossible to 5

calculate

SERM.

calculate, but as the first opening of the human mind exposes it to receive equally VI. ideas of good or evil, it cannot be too early engaged on the side of Religion; and the mere words that represent the ideas they are afterwards to come to an apprehension of, will be silently and secretly clearing the way for the comprehension of the great truths themselves. I am not taking refuge behind an argument, applicable only to religious instruction, in which the church might be supposed to have its hidden purposes, in speaking a language not universally to be understood, but I

may fairly refer to another branch of knowledge, in which a similar course is pursued. Those who have attained to the highest pitch of profane literature, will still acknowledge, that the earliest books of instruction put into their hands, were least to be comprehended, and remain still the most difficult to be fully expounded, yet they cannot be brought to deny, but that their after-attainments were owing to these foundations; and, though they cannot analyse the impressions made, or fix the

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date

VI.

SERM. date of the first rays of light, that dartet

in on their minds, they must still confess, that the grammatical rudiments they were taught, did serve as sure steps to the attainment of their after-knowledge, and did secretly and silently operate as means of wholesome instruction. It may be so with the more abstruse parts of the Church Catechism ; they are so founded on truth, as to be incapable of making bad impressions, and they may silently operate to lead the mind up to higher and more important matters. It is well too, even thus to pre-engage the curiosity of children ; as their faculties expand, and their understandings become enlightened, they will naturally seek to comprehend what they may heretofore have only uttered by rote; and then, what a fund of essential knowledge is provided for them ! a perfect summary of Christianity, of the laws of God, and the duties of man; with such intimation of the mysteries, and such explanation of the two sacraments, as may serve to render them becoming members of the church of Christ. But, in thus meeting the

objection

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VI.

objection thrown out against our Church SERM. Catechism as being incomprehensible, I by no means yield to it so far as to grant that the Catechism is in general beyond the faculties of children. It contains very much, capable of impressing the human mind, at the very earliest dawn of sense and reflection, and of interesting and engaging it on the side of Virtue and Religion. From the very beginning of the Catechism, a child may soon be brought to understand, that the earliest and chiefest care of its parents, were not confined to the provision of bodily conveniences, but to dedicate his person to God Almighty, and to pray that he might, hereafter, have grace and goodness enough “ to keep God's

boly will and commandments, and walk in the same all the days of bis life.The commandments themselves that follow, from the twentieth chapter of the book of Exodus, are equally capable of making an early impression, and instead of being too profound for the mind of a child, are in truth but a simplification of what would otherwise be unintelligible. It cannot be denied, but H2

that

VI.

SERM. that the simplicity of the eighth command

ment, “ Thou shalt not steal,is more capable of impressing the mind of a child with the just principles of honest dealings, than any long discussion on the nature and distinctions of possession and property* The Lord's Prayer, no doubt, very early indeed begins to make an impression: the

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* In the month of December, 1799, the celebrated M. de Luc, reader to her Majesty, published at Berlin, in French, a series of letters upon the very subject before us, in which are to be found many very able arguments, to shew the exceeding great propriety and reasonableness of instructing infants in the first principles of religion. Some of which absolutely require to be taught as facts, being incapable of positive and direct proof; such, for instance, as the Being and attributes of God; the creation of the world, &c. He is for making religion a concern of the heart rather than of the head; and in this he is un. doubtedly right: for, to apply the words of another admirable writer, “ The judgment and understanding have “ their proper method, which is by principles and de“monstrations. The heart and affections have a method " altogether different. A man would expose himself

very remarkably, who should go about to engage our love, by laying down, in a philosophical order, the (prings and causes of that passion.' Pensées de Pascal, xxxi. 31.

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