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And though, in language understood,
Still instances I call to mind,
And many such there be,
For, could'st thou half the kindness I
In me-as I, altho' his care
By fears which border on despair,
Mr. Matthew Henry's Plain Catechism for Children,
In the year 1784 I had the satisfaction of being favoured with the privilege of establishing, in Hanover Square, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, the first Sunday-schools in the four Northern counties. They were soon followed by numerous similar institutions, both in the Established Church and by the various denominations of separatists: and among the working classes of this large town, and especially in the populous colliery-villages which surround it, they have been productive of the most beneficial effects. For the use of our own schools, I drew up an "Abstract of the History of the Bible," which has gone through seven editions, several of them of three thousand copies each; it may therefore be presumed to have been found useful in many other schools, as well as in many private families. At the same time the following "Plain Catechism" was adopted, for the purpose of leading the children to an acquaintance with the first principles of religious truth and duty.
When the first set of scholars had made themselves fully acquainted with this Catechism, so as to be able to repeat it before the congregation, I gave them, once a fortnight,
after the ordinary morning service, a short, familiar lecture on the several questions and answers in their order. These have since been repeated at different periods (as the children of the school, and also of the congregation, changed); and if you should be of opinion that their appearance in the Christian Reformer will be interesting to its numerous readers, they are very much at your service.
It may not be improper to mention, that the scholars, during several years after the first opening of the schools, consisted very much of young apprentice boys, and of girls nearly ready for going to service: the provisions previously made for the instruction of youth among the labouring classes having been very inadequate to ground them even in common elements of education. But since the establishment of our Lancasterian and Bellian Schools, our Sundayschools have consisted very much of children who attend these schools throughout the week, and resort to the Sunday-schools for religious instruction and worship. The schools, both for boys and girls, are under the personal superintendence and tuition of the young men and women of the congregation; much, however, of the laborious part is done by that class of young persons who at first formed the bulk of the scholars, but who now are more generally capable of teaching, instead of requiring to be taught. These, as well as the young people of the congregation in general, the Lecturer has endeavoured to keep in view, as well as the children more immediately addressed.
1. Ques. What must you do in the days of your youth? Ans. I must remember my Creator.
2. Who is your Creator?
The great God that made the world.
3. Who is your Preserver ?
The same God that made me preserves and maintains me, and in him I live and move and have my being.
4. What are you made and maintained for?
To glorify God by being and doing good.
5. IVhat do you believe concerning God?
I believe that he is every where present; and that he is most wise and powerful, holy, just and good.
6. What is your duty to God?
It is my duty to fear and honour Him, to worship and obey Him, and in all my ways to trust in Him and to please Him.
7. Have men always discharged these duties to God? No; they soon forgot the God that made them, imagined false gods, and became very wicked.
8. What measures did God take to teach them better? He sent good men from time to time to warn them of their sins, and to give them good rules for their belief and practice.
9. In what book are these rules contained?
In the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testament, which we call the Bible.
10. What is the excellence of that book?
11. What use will it be of to you
12. What is the chief design of the Old Testament? To teach us that God is One, all-powerful, wise and good; that He made and governs the world, and that to Him alone our religious worship is due.
13. What account does it give of the means employed for preserving the knowledge of the True God?
It teaches us that God separated one people from the rest of mankind; and directed holy men among them to teach them the right knowledge of himself, and the practice of the duties which arise from this knowledge.
14. What are the religious doctrines of the New Testament?
Like the Old Testament, it teaches us that we ought to obey and love God; it reveals the mercy of God to penitent sinners; and, besides, it promises eternal life to the penitent, sincere and faithful.
15. By whom did God give the promise of eternal life? By his Son Jesus Christ.
16. In what manner did the Son of God live here on earth?
He appeared in a low and mean condition; but he
was holy, harmless, undefiled, and went about doing good.
17. How did he prove that he was sent by God?
He healed the sick with a word's speaking, made the blind to see and the lame to walk, raised the dead, and did many other things which no man could do unless God were with him.
18. Ihat death did he die ?
He was put to the cruel death of the cross, by wicked men who would not hearken to him.
19. Did God suffer him to continue under death?
No; God raised him to life on the third day; and he afterwards ascended into heaven.
20. When will he come again?
He will come again in glory at the last day to judge the world.
21. Vhat must you do to become one of Christ's disciples?
I must deny all ungodliness and worldly lusts, and must resolve to live a sober, righteous and godly life in this pres sent world, looking for the blessed hope.
22. What are the blessings which he has promised to his faithful followers?
The pardon of sin, the favour and assistance of God, and eternal life.
23. What are the conditions on which these are promised?
Repentance towards God, and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.
24. What is it to repent of our sins?
It is to be sorry that we have sinned and offended God, and to do so no more.
25. What is faith in Jesus Christ ?
It is to believe that he was sent by God, and to pay the regard due to his sacred character.
26. How must you shew the sincerity of your faith and repentance?
By a careful and diligent obedience to all God's com
27. What is the first and great commandment ?
28. What is the second, which is like unto it? To love my neighbour as myself; and to shew it by doing as I would be done unto.
29. What is the honour which you owe to God's word? I must read and hear it with diligent attention I must meditate upon it, and frame my life according to it.
30. What is the honour which you owe to God in His Providence?
1 must receive all His mercies with thankfulness; and bear all afflictions with patience, and submission to His holy will.
31. What is the honour which you owe to the Lord'sday.
I must keep the Sabbath holy to God, by a diligent performance of the religious duties of the day.
32. How must you honour God in prayer?
I must every day by solemn prayer seek the favour of God, and give unto Him the glory due unto His name.
33. What must you pray for ?
For mercy to pardon, and grace to help in time of need. 34. What else must you do in your prayers?
I must confess my sins, and give God praise for His goodness to me.
35. What must be your daily care concerning yourself? I must take care that my heart be not lifted up with .pride, or disturbed with anger, or any sinful passion.
36. What must be your care concerning your words? I must never tell a lie; nor mock at or abuse any one; nor speak profane or wicked words.
37. What is your duty to your parents and governors? I must reverence and obey them in the Lord; I must thankfully receive their instructions, submit to their rebukes, and labour in every thing to be a comfort to them,
38. IVhat is your duty to the poor ?
I must pity, help and relieve them, according to my ability.