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AN EPISTLE TO THE READER.
THAT popish axiom is long since exploded, that “ • Ignorance is the mother of devotion." The world doth now see, that without knowledge the mind is not good. And look, as no knowledge is so necessary, as that of the grounds and principles of Christian religion; so no way is so apt to convey it to the minds of men, as that which is called catechistical. More knowledge is ordinarily diffused, especially amongst the ignorant and younger sort, by one hour's catechistical exercise, than by many hours' continued discourses. This way helps the understanding, whilst it provokes the attention; many elaborate sermons being lost, through the inadvertency of the hearers. Thus not only ignorance is cured, but error also is prevented; too many being disguised, because they were not at first well grounded in the principles of the doctrine of Christ. For such reasons as these we highly approve the labours of this reverend brother, in his Explanation of the Assembly's Catechism; and having to our great satisfaction, perused it ourselves, in whole or in part, do readily recommend it unto others. For though he composed it at first for his own particular congregation, yet we judge it may be greatly useful to all Christians in general, especially to private families. The manner of using it in families, must be left to the discretion of the masters and governors respectively:
though we concur with the author, and think it advisable, as he hints in one of his epistles, that after a question in the Catechism is proposed, and an answer without book returned by one of the family, the same person, or some other be called upon to read, if not to rehearse, the explanation of it, the rest reading along with him in several books; by which means, their thoughts, which are apt to wander, will be the more intent upon what they are about. To conclude, though the Assembly's Shorter Catechism itself be above our recommendation, as having its praise already in the churches of Christ; yet we think it good to give it under our hands, that this Explanation is very worthy of acceptation.
John Owen, D.D., T. Matton, D.D.,
T. Jacomb, D.D.,
TO THE MASTERS AND GOVERNORS OF FAMILIES BELONGING TO MY CONGREGATION.
SOME dedicate their books unto lords and ladies, or other great persons. Such possibly I might find out, had I mind to seek; but as my love is most endeared unto you, to whom I stand so nearly related, so my greatest ambition is to be serviceable unto your souls. Your cordial and constant love to me and my labours, in a whiffling age, of which you have given many manifest proofs, deserveth a greater expression of my grateful sense, than the dedication of this book unto you. God by bringing you under my ministry, has given me the charge of your souls; and God by bringing persons in your families, has given you a charge of their souls. Our charge is great, and to be guilty of the ruin of souls, is dreadful. Happy shall we be, if we be found faithful to our own and others' souls, in the great day of accounts. Too many, even in our nation and city, perish and run blindfold unto hell, for want of knowledge: and the most are without knowledge, for want of instruction and as no way of instruction doth convey
viii TO MASTERS AND GOVERNORS OF
clearer light of distinct knowledge in the principles of religion, than the way of catechizing; so the neglect of this in ministers and masters of families, is such a sin of unfaithfulness unto the souls of them that are under their charge, that all of us should take heed we have it not to answer for, at the appearance of our Lord. It is not sufficient for you to bring your children and servants, to receive public instruction, but it is your duty also to instruct them privately, and at home to examine them in their Catechisms. I know no Catechism more full of light, and sound doctrine, than the Shorter Catechism of the late reverend Assembly; which, because in many answers, there are things not easy to be understood by beginners, therefore in this my Explanation of it, I have taken pains to take abroad every answer, to open it in several under questions and answers, and to confirm the truths thereof by reasons and Scripture proofs; which I have endeavoured to do as plainly and familiarly as I could, that every thing therein. might be the more intelligible and useful unto such as either learn or read it. Some chief controversies in religion I have touched upon, briefly propounding arguments for the backing of the truth, and not left objections wholly unanswered; which I have the rather done, that all of you, especially the more unexperienced young ones under you, might get some armour against every where prevailing error. You know, that some
have committed the whole of the explanation, so far as we have gone, unto memory; how beneficial they have found this, others besides themselves can speak. Yet all have not that strength of memory, neither would I impose this Explanation to be learned without book by all; yet this I advise, that you, who are masters of families, would set apart time, twice, or at least once every week, to examine your children and servants in the Assembly's Catechism. And after they have given you the answers without book, which are in the Catechism, that then yourselves would read, or cause one of them to read, some part of this Explanation on those answers, so far as you can well go at a time. And if each of them that can read, should both in your families, and in your public assembly, have one of those explanations in their hands, to read along with them that read, or publicly answer, they would the better attend and understand what is read or answered; which course I apprehend will exceedingly tend to their great profit, and that such as do this with diligence, will, through God's blessing, attain in a short time much proficiency in the best knowledge, which is such a jewel, that none, methinks, should be contentedly without, when with less labour than for other jewels of inferior value, it may be obtained. This Explanatory Catechism was chiefly, if not only, intended for you, and the use of such as are