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unqualified approbation. In particular, the Rev. Dr Brewster of Craig described it “ as being one of the most beautiful, complete, and accurate expositions of the Shorter Catechism which has ever appeared,-unfolding the meaning of the answers to each question, with a clearness and minuteness of detail hitherto unequalled in works of the kind.” Another gentleman of great literary experience, stated, that it “ had been prepared with such elaborate care, that, after a critical perusal, he could not suggest the addition or diminution of a single word.” Strong as these testimonies are, the Publisher confidently anticipates that they will be amply borne out by an examination of the work itself.
The annexed admirable Paper on the History and Arrangement of the Shorter Catechism, by the Rev. Duncan Macfarlan of Renfrew, appeared some time ago in a periodical publication, and is transferred into this volume with the obliging permission of the author.
EDINBURGH, August 1841.
HISTORY AND ARRANGEMENT OF THE
BY THE REV. DUNCAN MACFARLAN,
MINISTER OF RENPREW.
CATECHISMS were, at a very early period, drawn up and used by all, or nearly all, the Reformed Churches of Europe. The earliest which we recollect to have seen mentioned, as used by the Scottish Reformers, had been drawn up by Calvin. But in 1590, we find the General Assembly adopting measures for securing a general and national Catechism. “ Anent the examination before the communion," say they,“ it is thought meet for the common profite of the whole people, that ane uniform order be keepit in examination, and that ane schort form of examination be set down, be their breither, Messrs John Craig, Robert Pont, Thomas Buchanan, and Andrew Melvine, to be presented to the next Assembly.”. In 1591, a form was laid before the Assembly by Mr Craig, but it was remitted, with instructions “to contract in some schorter bounds." The abridged form was accordingly laid before the Assembly of 1592, and approved. The following directions were also added :—“Therefore, it is thought needful, that every pastor travel with his flock, that they may buy the samen buick, and read it in their families, quhereby they may be the better instructed ; and that the samen be read and learnit in lector's (reading) schools, in place of the little Catechism” (Calvin's). This Catechism, or “ Form of Examination,” which is commonly called Craig's Catechism, consists of twelve heads or chapters, having the following titles :-“ Of our miserable bondage through Adam—Of our redemption by Christ-Of our participation with Christ-Of the Word-Of our liberty to serve God Of the Sacraments
–Of Baptism_Of the Supper_Of Discipline-Of the Magistrate_Of the Table in special (meaning the Protestant mode of observing the Supper)—The end of our redemption." Under each of these are a number of questions and answers, amounting in all to ninety-six ; and the latter are remarkably short and pertinent, and usually accompanied with at least one Scripture proof.
When the Solemn League and Covenant was projected, contemplating, as it did, an ecclesiastical union between the three kingdoms, measures were also adopted for preparing a uniform Confession, Directory, and Catechism. And it is important to observe, that the plan afterwards executed by the Westminster Assembly, was first proposed in the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. Towards the end of 1640, several Scottish commissioners, of whom Henderson was one, went to London to treat on matters then pending between the King and the Presbyterian party. Henderson returned in the July following, and found the General Assembly holding an adjourned meeting at Edinburgh, and anxiously waiting his arrival. He was immediately elected Moderator, and laid before them a letter from the Presbyterians in and about London, in which they complain of the spread of schismatical opinions, and earnestly crave the advice and assistance of the Assembly. In replying to this letter, the Assembly says, among other things, “ We have learned by long experience, ever since the time of the Reformation, and specially after the two kingdoms hace been—in the great goodness of God to both—united under one head and monarch, but most of all, of late, which is not unknown to you, what danger and contagion in matters of kirk government, of divine worship, and of doctrine, may come from the one kirk to the other; which, beside all other reasons, make us to pray to God, and to desire you, and all that love the honour of Christ, and the peace of these kirks and kingdoms, heartily to endeavour, that there might be in both kirks, one Confession, one Directory for public worship, one Catechism, and one Form of Kirk Government." And agreeably to this, we find Henderson suggesting to the same Assembly, only twelve days before the writing of this letter, the propriety of drawing up such a Confession, Catechism, and Directory ; thus leaving scarcely any reason to doubt, that the thing itself was projected by Henderson, and first laid before the General Assembly ; but that the Assembly had itself been long of five years.
favourable to such a measure, and was immediately incited to it by what had taken place in England. The Assembly accordingly approved highly of the measure, and urged Henderson to undertake the drawing up of the documents required. And to render this the more easy, they allowed him to refrain from preaching, and to avail himself of assistance. But he declined the task, as being too arduous. The subject is repeatedly mentioned in the Assembly's correspondence, during the intervening period; but it does not appear that any thing was done before the meeting of the Westminster Assembly in 1643. This Assembly met under the authority of the English Parliament, but chiefly at the instance of the Scottish Church. It was composed of 121 divines, with 30 lay assessors, and 5 commissioners froin the Church of Scotland, and continued its sittings for upwards
The matters laid before this Assembly were numerous and important, and some of them are detailed with great minute
It unfortunately happens, however, that our information respecting the drawing up of the Catechisms is meagre and imperfect. The late Dr Belfrage of Falkirk appears to have been at great pains in collecting whatever was accessible on this point. We have made some farther inquiries, but have hitherto found scarcely any thing, beyond what he seems to have examined and abridged. The sum of what we have been able to gather, either from his work or original authorities, may be stated in a few words. In 1647, while the Assembly was engaged discussing the different articles of the Confession, committees were appointed to reduce these into the form of two Catechisms; a larger, which was to serve as a text-book for pulpit exposition, according to a usage of the churches on the Continent, and a shorter, for the instruction of children.
It appears, however, that before the Confession had been finished, some progress was made in composing the Catechism, and that the reducing of it to a conformity with the Confession was an after-thought. "We made long ago,” says Baillie,“ a pretty progress in the Catechism, but falling on rules and long debates, it was laid aside till the Confession was ended, with the resolution to have no matter in it, but what was expressed in the Confession.” And, accordingly, much curiosity has been excited respecting the author of the original draft. Dr Belfrage, after detailing various opinions, and assigning rea
sons for his own, alleges Dr Arrowsmith to be the most like.
*"While the Confession of Faith was under discussion in the Assembly, com.
“The excellent Dr M'Crie, whose researches have shed so much light on the character, doctrines, and conduct of our Reformers, states, in a communication with which he has favoured me, that from a circumstance mentioned by Baillie, he is inclined to think that Mr Palmer was concerned in the first draught of the Catechism. In volume first of the Letters, page 431, he says, . It was laid on Mr Palmer to draw up a directory for catechising.' The directory contains no article on this point. In the same volume, page 440, he says, “ Ár Palmer's part about catechising was given in, and though the best catechist in England, did not suit, but was left in our hands to frame according to our mind.' There is a work published by this divine, entitled, “The Principles of the Christian Religion made Plain and Easy, in which a considerable similarity to the Shorter Catechism may be traced. Palmer was constituted Master of King's College, Cambridge, and showed the greatest solicitude to promote religion and learning, maintained several poor scholars at his own expense in the College, and when he died, left a considerable benefaction for the same purpose.
"* In running over Wodrow's MSS.,' says Dr M'Crie in his communication, * I recollect noticing a statement that he had received information from some person, that the Catechism was composed by Dr Wallis. This was the celebrated mathematician of that name, who was one of the Secretaries to the Westminster Assembly. Perhaps the statement may have arisen from his official situation, and his name having been seen appended to the printed copy of that work. It would be a feather in the cap of our little formalary, and no real disparagement to the philosopher, that its draughtsman was Dr Wallis. In one of his works he avows that he obtained much insight from the discussion of so many learned divines, in composing the Confession and Catechisms, but says nothing of his having any band directly in its compilation.'
There was another member of the Assembly, Dr Gouge, who may be thought to have some claim to the honour, from his learning and activity, and also from an excellent and comprehensive scheme of divinity, in the forin of question and answer, which bears his name. He was minister of Black Friars, London, was appointed a member of the Assembly, and was in such