1632 By George Herbert

The Parson Catechizing.

THe Countrey Parson values Catechizing highly: for
there being three points of his duty, the one, to infuse
a competent knowledge of salvation in every one of his Flock;
the other, to multiply, and build up this knowledge to a
spirituall Temple; the third, to inflame this knowledge, to
presse, and drive it to practice, turning it to reformation of
life, by pithy and lively exhortations; Catechizing is the first
point, and but by Catechizing, the other cannot be attained.
Besides, whereas in Sermons there is a kinde of state, in
Catechizing there is an humblenesse very sutable to Christian
regeneration, which exceedingly delights him as by way of
exercise upon himself, and by way of preaching to himself,
for the advancing of his own mortification; for in preaching
to others, he forgets not himself, but is first a sermon to
himself, and then to others; growing with the growth of his
Parish. He useth, and preferreth the ordinary Church-
Catechism, partly for obedience to Authority, partly for
uniformity sake, that the same common truths may be every
where professed, especially since many remove from Parish
to Parish, who like Christian Souldiers are to give the word,
and to satisfie the Congregation by their Catholick1 answers.
He exacts of all the Doctrine of the Catechisme; of the youn-
ger sort, the very words; of the elder, the substance. Those
he Catechizeth publickly, these privately, giving age honour,
according to the Apostles rule, I Tim. 5. I. He requires all
to be present at Catechizing: First, for the authority of the
work; Secondly, that Parents, and Masters, as they hear the
answers prove, may when they come home, either commend
or reprove, either reward or punish. Thirdly, that those
of the elder sort, who are not well grounded, may then by
an honourable way take occasion to be better instructed.
Fourthly, that those who are well grown in the knowledg of
Religion, may examine their grounds, renew their vowes,
and by occasion of both, inlarge their meditations. When
once all have learned the words of the Catechisme, he thinks
it the most usefull way that a Pastor can take, to go over the
same, but in other words: for many say the Catechisme by
rote, as parrats, without ever piercing into the sense of it.
In this course the order of the Catechisme would be kept,
but the rest varyed: as thus, in the Creed: How came this
world to be as it is? Was it made, or came it by chance?
Who made it? Did you see God make it? Then are there
some things to be beleeved that are not seen? Is this the
nature of beliefe? Is not Christianity full of such things, as
are not to be seen, but beleeved? You said, God made the
world; Who is God? And so forward, requiring answers
to all these, and helping and cherishing the Answerer, by
making the Question very plaine with comparisons, and
making much even of a word of truth from him. This order
being used to one, would be a little varyed to another. And
this is an admirable way of teaching, wherein the Catechized
will at length finde delight, and by which the Catechizer, if
he once get the skill of it, will draw out of ignorant and silly
souls, even the dark and deep points of Religion. Socrates did
thus in Philosophy, who held that the seeds of all truths lay
in every body, and accordingly by questions well ordered he
found Philosophy in silly Trades-men. That position will
not hold in Christianity, because it contains things above
nature: but after that the Catechisme is once learn'd, that
which nature is towards Philosophy, the Catechism is to-
wards Divinity. To this purpose, some dialogues in Plato
were worth the reading, where the singular dexterity of
Socrates in this kind may be observed, and imitated. Yet
the skill consists but in these three points: First, an aim and
mark of the whole discourse, whither to drive the Answerer,
which the Questionist must have in his mind before any
question be propounded, upon which and to which the
questions are to be chained. Secondly, a most plain and easie
framing the question, even containing in vertue the answer
also, especially to the more ignorant. Thirdly, when the
answerer sticks, an illustrating the thing by something else,
which he knows, making what hee knows to serve him in
that which he knows not: As, when the Parson once
demanded after other questions about mans misery; since
man is so miserable, what is to be done? And the answerer
could not tell; He asked him again, what he would do, if he
were in a ditch? This familiar illustration made the answer
so plaine, that he was even ashamed of his ignorance; for he
could not but say, he would hast out of it as fast as he could.
Then he proceeded to ask, whether he could get out of the
ditch alone, or whether he needed a helper, and who was
that helper. This is the skill, and doubtlesse the Holy
Scripture intends thus much, when it condescends to the
naming of a plough, a hatchet, a bushell, leaven, boyes
piping and dancing; shewing that things of ordinary use
are not only to serve in the way of drudgery, but to be
washed and cleansed, and serve for lights even of Heavenly
Truths. This is the Practice which the Parson so much
commends to all his fellow-labourers; the secret of whose
good consists in this, that at Sermons, and Prayers, men
may sleep or wander; but when one is asked a question, he
must discover what he is. This practice exceeds even Ser-
mons in teaching: but there being two things in Sermons,
the one Informing, the other Inflaming; as Sermons come
short of questions in the one, so they farre exceed them in
the other. For questions cannot inflame or ravish, that must
be done by a set, and laboured, and continued speech.

1 Catholick = universal [as in the Creed: "One Catholic and Apostolic Church." Herbert would not be referring to the Roman Church in this case.] [Return]

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