« AnteriorContinuar »
of the case. It is not God's laws that are in disorder, but they themselves are out of joint. Do not be surprised, Christian hearer, if the clouds of adversity have overshadowed you; this doubtless has happened because your eyes were attracted by the glitter of earth's perishing toys. Do not wonder if you find yourself at an unlooked-for hour prostrate in the abyss of worldly misfortune; for the height of prosperity to which some of you have attained is making you giddy. When God adjusts the state of a man's worldly good, and the state of his soul to each other, He seems sometimes to throw everything into wild confusion. It is then as when the woodman's axe levels the tall trees of the forest and sends them crashing to a level with the saplings and underbrush which slowly grow beneath their shadow.
Let us exhort you then, my hearers, if any of you have suffered reverses in your worldly concerns, do not murmur against God, but rather give thanks to Him. Oh, how you will praise Him in heaven that He did not let mammon pour its riches into your lap, till you had lost all care for the incorruptible crown. What you call misfortunes are to you some of the sweetest evidences of your interest in the grace of God. They show that Christ has a care for your soul, and, at any cost to your present ease and comfort, designs to save it.
3. The subject we have considered has an obvious lesson for those who are poor in this world's goods.
Covet not riches, my poor brother. It were not wise for you to desire to be of the number of whom it is said, "how hardly shall they enter the kingdom of Heaven;" for you will enter by the hardest, even though riches should not obstruct your passage. What old Flavel said two hundred years ago may be applicable to you: "Thou hast a narrow heart, and a small estate suitable to it hadst thou more of the world, it would be like a large sail to a little boat, which would quickly pull thee under water."*
4. It is to be feared, my hearers, that most of you are more prosperous in temporal than in spiritual concerns; and if this is so, an important question is, how you can bring these two departments to a due proportion. There are two obvious methods which we will only indicate. In the first place, cultivate a higher tone of piety-this is the elevating process; in the second place, let down your worldly prosperity somewhat by giving more of your substance to the Lord-this is the depressing process. In the grading of your whole life, temporal and spiritual, valleys must be exalted, and mountains must be brought low; thus will you prepare a highway for grace to enter your soul, and for your soul to enter heaven.
5. In conclusion, we would exhort you all to estimate by can
"You may have your desires with a curse. He that brings home a pack of fine clothes infected with the plague, has no such great bargain of it, how cheap soever he bought them."--FLAVEL, i. 316.
did and careful comparison the proportion which your spiritual prosperity bears to your temporal. Most of you have counted up your worldly gains and losses during the past year; but were it not wise to make an inventory of your graces? All of you have enjoyed temporal blessings without number; but how many of you have added one mite to your heavenly treasure. Some of you find yourselves richer than you were a year ago, and in the case of many it is true that as riches have increased, so have your hearts become set upon them. Oh, my hearers, this is a disproportion which will tell sadly at the reckonings of the judgment. If you have lost worldly goods, and have thereby gained heavenly graces, we cannot mourn, but must rather offer you our congratulations. But if you have grown more prosperous in the world, and more satisfied without God, the very angels might shed tears over your condition. My hearers, in what language can we so fitly convey a kind wish to you, as in that which inspiration has dictated?" Beloved, I wish, above all things, that you may prosper and be in health, even as your souls prosper."
BY REV. THOMAS LAPE,
MALDEN, N. Y.
THE DUTY AND IMPORTANCE OF CATECHETICAL INSTRUCTION.
"Feed my Lambs."-JOHN xxi. 15.
THIS expression is taken from the office of a shepherd with which the pastor of a church is frequently compared. The meaning is, as a good shepherd provides substantial food for his flock, so the pastor of a church is to furnish spiritual food for the souls of his people. He is solemnly required to attend in a special manner to the wants of the young-the lambs of the flock-so that their minds may be cultivated and their hearts sanctified by the grace of God, realizing that the hopes of the church depends in a great measure upon the care bestowed upon them.
The Sabbath School is well calculated to awaken the first budding of the intellectual powers of children and make religious impressions upon their hearts and consciences. The Sabbath School is emphatically styled a nursery of piety. It is a powerful engine in the hands of the Great Head of the church for the extension of his kingdom upon the earth. Means should be employed and efforts put forth for increasing their number in every section of our land, and render them efficient in accomplishing the great object of their establishment.
But important as the Sabbath School is for imparting instruction to the tender minds of children, yet there is another branch
of religious instruction which is eminently adapted for training their minds for usefulness here and for the glory of God hereaf ter. We mean Catechisation. The Sabbath School is designed for making the beginning in religious knowledge-catechisation is extending and deepening that knowledge.
In the Sabbath School, lessons of general Bible knowledge are learned; but by catechisation, fundamental principles deduced from the Bible and sustained by the Bible, are taught, adapted to increase their religious knowledge.
Catechisation may be defined a systematic course of theology, pursued by word of mouth, adapted to the comprehension of children, designed to enlighten and expand their minds, and impress their hearts and consciences in their duty both to God and man.
Agreeably to this definition, we find the word catechisation employed by sacred writers. We may select the following examples. The Evangelist Luke (i. 4,) tells Theophilus that he intends to give him an account of those things, in which he had been previously instructed, catechised.
This method of imparting religious instructions to the young and the ignorant was practiced in all ages of the church of God. Let us select a few instances. In Gen. xviii. 19, God says of Abraham: "For I know him that he will command his children and his household after him and they shall keep the way of the Lord to do justice and judgment." Henry, in his commentary on the passage, makes the following striking remarks: "Abraham not only took care of his children, but of his household-his servants were catechised."
In the time of Christ, this method of instruction was practiced. We are told in Luke ii. 46, that Jesus, when twelve years of age, was, on one occasion, in the temple, " sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing and asking them questions." Although he taught his disciples everything pertaining to the extension of his kingdom, and the salvation of the soul, yet he at all times accommodated himself to the capacities of children and the uninformed. In these respects he may be said to have adopted the method of catechisation. We have a striking example in Matt. xvi. 13. Here he desired to obtain the sentiments of the people respecting himself. He asked the question, "Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? And they said, some say that thou art John the Baptist; some Elias; and others Jeremias, or one of the prophets. He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God," &c.
In these questions and answers, fundamental truths respecting Christ-the stability and permanency of his church-are catechetically inculcated by Him in the minds of his disciples.
The apostles followed the example of their divine teacher. Paul alludes to it in a number of instances. In 1 Cor. iii. 1, 2,
addressing his converts, he styles them "babes in Christ," and thus feeds them "with milk and not with meat."
From the method pursued in the Sacred Scriptures, let us open ecclesiastical history; there we have abundant evidences of religious instruction having been imparted to the young and uninformed by catechisation. In the primitive church, great attention was bestowed on this subject. Such men as Origen, Ambrose, Cyril, Gregory Nazianzan, Cyprian, Augustine, Chrysostom, with other illustrious men, were engaged in this important duty. Tracing down the historic record, we open upon a bright page in the sixteenth century on this important subject. Luther arose in the spirit of his divine Master. With the Bible in his hand, he attacked the Pope on his proud, imperial throne. Europe awoke from her dreams of spiritual darkness. The dawn of brighter days for the church of Christ commenced. Luther, with others, was appointed in the year 1527-8 by the Elector of Saxony to go through his dominions on a tour of church visitations. He found the spiritual condition of the people so low and degraded that his very soul was stirred up within him in their behalf. He resolved at once, to write catechisms for their spiritual good. Tens of thousands of copies, translated into many of the languages of the world, have been issued through a period of more than three hundred years, in various forms, not only hastening on the glorious Reformation, but establishing the cardinal doctrines of the Protestant church.
The Pilgrims who landed on Plymouth Rock in 1620, brought over to this country the practice of catechising the children. In 1629, Matthew Craddock said: "We appoint that all secular business cease at 3 o'clock on Saturday afternoon, and that the time should be spent in catechising. The colonial records show the Legislature ordered that all parents and masters of families do once in a week catechise their children, and that the select men see that this order is obeyed. Cotton Mather spoke " of drawing the breast of catechism to young ones, and said that to keep school and catechise the young was a noble work fit for angels."
Other portions of the Protestant church likewise brought with them from Europe their respective catechisms to this country, and taught them to their children. The practice is still continued. One thing worthy of special notice is, that this subject is awakening a deeper interest, to its importance, both in ecclesiastical bodies and churches, than it has in years past. This is a favorable sign of the times. It is an evidence that there is not sufficient doctrinal and spiritual training of the young to guard them against the baneful influence of a corrupt literature, and make them intelligent, useful and efficient members of society, and ornaments of the church of God.
In view of this part of the subject let us consider whose duty it is particularly to give catechetical instructions to the young and the advantages and blessings resulting from it.
1. Christian parents and teachers of Sabbath schools can render important aid in this great work. But it is especially the dutythe solemn duty, of the pastor of the church to attend to it. This is a work embraced in his commission by the great Head of the church. It is a work, therefore, that cannot be delegated to others. It cannot be performed by others. It is a work that comes directly under his supervision as pastor. The particular reason is, baptized children are the children of the church. They, in view of the Abrahamic covenant, are, in a certain degree, members of the church. And the pastor of the church cannot fulfil his high commission, without attending to the spiritual wants of the children of his charge. The pastor, as a laborer in the vineyard of the Lord must cultivate the tender plants—as a shepherd he must extend his labors in an affectionate manner to the lambs of the flock. He must, when exposed to the influences of a deceitful world, fold them into his arms, press them to his bosom, and feed them with the milk of the gospel of Christ, in order that they may be trained up in the fear and knowledge of the Lord. Christ says, "Feed my lambs."
2. Another reason why pastoral catechisation should be attended to is, the consideration that the future usefulness of the young require them to be religiously instructed. Secular schools are established by legislation to instruct the young to be obedient and useful citizens of their country. The Church of Christ, in her very nature, is a society, united together for great and momentous objects. It is particularly the salvation of the soul.
3. Catechisation is an effectual mode of preaching the word of God. It is happily adapted to the comprehension of children.
Timothy, from a child, was instructed in the Holy Scriptures, which not only made him wise unto salvation, but when he became a man, he greatly excelled other pious men of his day in advancing the Redeemer's kingdom. From this example, it appears evident, that those men who are trained from childhood in the principles and practices of religion, are the most useful in the cause of Christ. Their religious principles being established, their habits of life formed, their aim and object is onward in the paths of usefulness. Men, thus trained from their childhood in the school of Christ, make the most active members and officers of the church-the most efficient and well-qualified superintendents and teachers of the Sabbath schools-the ablest ministers of the everlasting gospel, and the most self-denying missionaries of the cross of Christ.
4. But again, the pastor himself receives a spiritual benefit from attending faithfully to this duty.
Luther experienced such beneficial results from a knowledge of the catechism, that he had been in the habit daily of repeating it. In his introduction to the Larger Catechism, he says, "Every morning, and also at other times, I repeat word for word the Decalogue, the Creed, the Lord's Prayer, and some Psalms; and