CHRIST JESUS has, in every age of the world, wisely adapted the external dispensations of religion to the state of his church. Religion itself, as an inward principle, is every where the same. Enoch and Abraham, Moses and Paul, were “all made to drink into one Spirit.” But the forms of religious worship which these saints enjoyed, were exceedingly indifferent. None, however, despised that dispensation under which divine love had placed him. Each of them submitted to it with reverence.
The New Testament dispensation, it must be confessed, exceeds in glory, and, has a superior claim upon the attention of Christians. It is simple and appropriate, and it is to remain “until time shall be no longer.” Ah! what disciple of Jesus shall despise it? All its ordinances are conducive to piety. Christianity, in its doctrines and institutions, is one connected system. No part can be altered, without diminishing the beauty of the whole. Error in sentiment produces error in practice, and every deviation from truth tends to absolute apostacy. It is the duty of every disciple to know the law of the house of God. But there is a remarkable inattention, even among pious people, to this subject. Nor does the writer of these remarks expect to correct the evil. The subject on which he writes is unpopular, and the form in which he communicates his thoughts, places them beneath the notice of those who think themselves already sufficiently wise. He confidently hopes, however, that his labour will not be in vain in the Lord.
Christian Ministers are bound to the preservation of ecclesiastical order, as well as to the maintenance of evangelical doctrine. Success, in some measure, depends on the instruction which youth receives. Indeed, the religious education of the younger members of the church, is a principal part of the duty of a pastor.
The plan of instruction, in order to be complete, should embrace a view of the Church as a visible society. Christians are, in general, shamelessly ignorant of the constitution and order which the Redeemer hath established for his peculiar kingdom. The old cannot be easily taught, but the young may, and the form of question and answer is recommended, by experience, as the best for instructing the young disciple. But, although there are many excellent summaries of evangelical doctrine reduced to this form, and adapted to every capacity, there is none which illustrates the order and government of the Church. The author of this Catechism felt this deficiency, and has endeavoured to supply it. He has for two years been making the experiment of the efficacy of this summary, upon the younger part of his own congregation, and the effect has been extremely pleasing. He hopes that it will be lasting—that sincere piety and Presbyterianism will grow with their growth, and strengthen with their strength. As the Catechism was composed for the benefit of his own congregation, so is it principally on their account published. He hopes also that it may be useful to others, in directing their attention to this important subject; and in confirming their attachment to what he believes to be the cause of truth and of Christ.
It is now committed to the providence of God, and commended to his blessing, accompanied with the earnest prayer of the author, that some more able presbyterian may be induced speedily to place the subject in a more luminous and interesting point of view.