B. B. Warfield on the Shorter Catechism.

    The Shorter Catechism is, perhaps, not very easy to learn. And very
 certainly it will not teach itself. Its framers were less careful to
 make it easy than to make it good. As one of them, Lazarus
 Seaman, explained, they sought to set down in it not the
 knowledge the child has, but the knowledge the child ought to
 have. And they did not dream that anyone could expect it to teach
 itself. They committed it rather to faithful men who were zealous
 teachers of the truth, "to be," as the Scottish General Assembly
 puts it in the Act approving it, "a Directory for catechizing such as
 are of a weaker capacity," as they sent out the Larger Catechism
 "to be a Directory for catechizing such as have made some
 proficiency in the knowledge of the grounds of religion."

   No doubt it requires some effort whether to teach or to learn the
 Shorter Catechism. It requires some effort whether to teach or to
 learn the grounds of any department of knowledge. Our Children -
 some of them at least - groan over even the primary arithmetic
 and find sentence-analysis a burden. Even the Conquest of the art
 of reading has proved such a task that "reading without tears" is
 deemed an achievement. We think, nevertheless, that the
 acquisition of arithmetic, grammar and reading is worth the pains
 it costs the teacher to teach, and the pain it costs the learner to
 learn them. Do we not think the acquisition of the grounds of
 religion worth some effort, and even, if need be, some tears?

   For, the grounds of religion must be taught and learned as truly as
 the grounds of anything else. Let us make no mistake here.
 Religion does not come of itself: it is always a matter of
 instruction. The emotions of the heart, in which many seem to
 think religion too exclusively to consist, ever follow the
 movements of the thought. Passion for service cannot take the
 place of passion for truth, or safely outrun the acquisition of truth;
 for it is dreadfully possible to compass sea and land to make one
 proselyte, and when he is made, to find we have made him only a
 "son of hell." This is why God establishes and extends his Church
 by the ordinance of preaching; it is why we have Sunday schools
 and Bible classes. Nay, this is why God has grounded his Church in
 revelation. He does not content himself with sending his Spirit
 into the world to turn men to him. He sends his Word into the
 world as well. Because, it is from knowledge of the truth, and only
 from the knowledge of the truth, that under the quickening in
 fluence of the Spirit true religion can be born. Is it not worth the
 pains of the teacher to communicate, the pain of the scholar to
 acquire this knowledge of the truth? How unhappy the expedient
 to withhold the truth - that truth under the guidance of which the
 religious nature must function if it is to function aright - that we
 may save ourselves these pains, our pupils this pain!

   An anecdote told of Dwight L. Moody will illustrate the value to the
 religious life of having been taught these forms of truth. He was
 staying with a Scottish friend in London, but suppose we let the
 narrator tell the story. "A young man had come to speak to Mr.
 Moody about religious things. He was in difficulty about a number
 of points, among the rest about prayer and natural laws. 'What is
 prayer?,' he said, 'I can't tell what you mean by it!' They were in the
 hall of a large London house. Before Moody could answer, a child's
 voice was heard singing on the stairs. It was that of a little girl of
 nine or ten, the daughter of their host. She came running down the
 stairs and paused as she saw strangers sitting in the hail. 'Come
 here, Jenny,' her father said, 'and tell this gentleman "What is
 prayer."' Jenny did not know what had been going on, but she quite
 understood that she was now called upon to say her Catechism. So
 she drew herself up, and folded her hands in front of her, like a
 good little girl who was going to 'say her questions,' and she said in
 her clear childish voice: 'Prayer is an offering up of our desires
 unto God for things agreeable to his will, in the name of Christ,
 with confession of our sins and thankful acknowledgement of his
 mercies.' 'Ah! That's the Catechism!' Moody said, 'thank God for
 that Catechism.'"

   How many have had occasion to "thank God for that Cate-chism!"
 Did anyone ever know a really devout man who re-gretted having
 been taught the Shorter Catechism - even with tears - in his
 youth? How its forms of sound words come reverberating back into
 the memory, in moments of trial and suffering, of doubt and
 temptation, giving direction to religious aspirations, firmness to
 hesitating thought, guidance to stumbling feet: and adding to our
 religious meditations an ever-increasing richness and depth. "The
 older I grow," said Thomas Carlyle in his old age, "and now I stand
 on the brink of eternity, the more comes back to me the first
 sentence in the Catechism, which I learned when a child, and the
 fuller and deeper its meaning becomes:

       What is the chief end of man?
       To glorify God and to enjoy him forever.

 Robert Louis Stevenson, too, had learned this Catechism when a
 child; and though he wandered far from the faith in which it would
 guide his feet, he could never escape from its influence, and he
 never lost his admiration (may we not even say, his reverence) for
 it. Mrs. Sellars, a shrewd, if kindly, observer, tells us in her
 delightful "Recollections" that Stevenson bore with him to his
 dying day what she calls "the indelible mark of the Shorter
 Catechism"; and he himself shows how he esteemed it when he set
 over against one another what he calls the "English" and the
 "Scottish" Catechisms the former, as he says, beginning by "tritely
 inquiring 'What is your name?,'" the latter by "striking at the very
 roots of life with 'What is the chief end of man?' and answering
 nobly, if obscurely, 'To glorify God and to enjoy him forever.'"

   What is "the indelible mark of the Shorter Catechism"? We have
 the following bit of personal experience from a general officer of
 the United States army. He was in a great western city at a time of
 intense excitement and violent rioting. The streets were over-run
 daily by a dangerous crowd. One day he observed approaching him a
 man of singularly combined calmness and firmness of mien, whose
 very demeanor inspired confidence. So impressed was he with his
 bearing amid the surrounding uproar that when he had passed he
 turned to look back at him, only to find that the stranger had done
 the same. On observing his turning the stranger at once came back
 to him, and touching his chest with his forefinger, demanded
 without preface: "What is the chief end of man?" On receiving the
 countersign, "Man's chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him
 forever" - "Ah!" said he, "I knew you were a Shorter Catechism boy
 by your looks!"  "Why, that was just what I was thinking of you,"
 was the rejoinder.

   It is worth while to be a Shorter Catechism boy. They grow to be
 men. And better than that, they are exceedingly apt to grow to be
 men of God. So apt, that we cannot afford to have them miss the
 chance of it. "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he
 is old, he will not depart from it."

Web Hosting Companies