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§ 83. The Catechisms of the Church of England. A.D. 1549 and 1662.


The Church Catechism is contained in all the English and American editions of the Book of Common Prayer, between the baptismal and the confirmation services, and is printed in this work with the American emendations, Vol. III. pp. 517 sqq. The authentic text of the final revision of 1662 is in the corrected copy of the Black-Letter Prayer-Book, which was attached to the Act of Uniformity, and has been republished in fac-simile, Lond. 1871. (It was supposed to be lost, when in 1867 it was discovered in the Library of the House of Lords.)

Archibald John Stephens: The Book of Common Prayer, with notes legal and historical. Lond. 1854 Vol. III. pp. 1449–1477.

Francis Procter: A History of the Book of Common Prayer, 11th ed. Lond. 1874, ch. V. sect. i (pp. 397 sqq.).

See other works on the Anglican Liturgy, noticed by Procter, p. viii.


The English Church followed the example of the Lutheran and Reformed Churches on the Continent in providing for regular catechetical instruction. English versions and expositions of the Lord's Prayer, the Creed, and the Ten Commandments, with some prayers, were known before the Reformation, and constituted the 'Prymer,' which is commonly mentioned in the fifteenth century as a well-known book of private devotion.12621262   The earliest known copy, belonging to the latter part of the 14th century, has been published by Maskel in Monumenta ritualia Ecclesiæ Anglicanæ, Vol. II. It contains Matins and Hours of our Lady; Evensong and Compline; the seven Penitential Psalms; the Psalmi graduales (Psa. CXX.–CXXXIV.); the Litany; Placebo (Vespers); Dirge (the office for the departed); the Psalms of Commendation; Pater noster; Ave Maria; Creed; Ten Commandments; the seven deadly sins. See Procter, p. 15. In 1545 Henry VIII. set forth a Primer which was 'to be taught, learned, and read, and none other to be used 655throughout all his dominions.12631263   It contained, besides the contents of the older Primers, the Salutation of the Angel, the Passion of our Lord, and several prayers. See Procter, p. 15, and Barton, Three Primers, pp. 437 sqq. During his reign the curates were frequently enjoined to teach the people the Lord's Prayer, the Creed, and the Ten Commandments, sentence by sentence, on Sundays and Holydays, and to make all persons recite them when they came to confession.


'Cranmer's Catechism,' which appeared with his sanction in 1548, was for the most part a translation of the Latin Catechism of Justus Jonas, and retains the Catholic and Lutheran consolidation of the first and second commandments, and the sacrament of penance or absolution; but it was soon superseded.12641264   So Hardwick (Hist. of the Reform. p. 194) and other Episcopal writers. This matter needs further investigation. The very existence of a Catechism of Jonas is doubted by Langemack and Mönckeberg, who have written with authority on Luther's Catechism. But it is a fact that Luther, before be prepared his own Catechisms (1529), charged with this task his colleagues and friends Justus Jonas and Agricola of Eisleben (who afterwards became the leader of Antinomian views in opposition to Luther), for he wrote to Hausmann, Feb. 2, 1525: 'Jonæ et Eislebio mandatas est catechismus puerorum parandus' (De Wette, Vol. II. p. 621). This is probably the Catechism which appeared in the same year in a Latin translation anonymously under the title 'Quo pacto statim a primis annis, pueri debeant in Christianismo institui. Libellus perutilis.' At the close: 'Impressum Wittembergæ per Georgium Rhaw. An. 1525.' The original German edition has not been traced, but Dr. Schneider has discovered a copy of an improved German edition, under the title 'Ein Buchlein fur die kinder gebessert und gemehret. Der Leyen Biblia. Wittemberg, 1528,' and has reproduced it in the appendix to his critical edition of Luther's Small Catechism, 1853. He leaves it, however, uncertain whether it was composed by Jonas. Comp. his Introduction, pp. xx sqq. It consists of a brief exposition of the Ten Commandments, the Creed, the Lord's Prayer, the Sacrament of Baptism, and the Lord's Supper, with an addition on Confession; and so far it anticipates the order of Luther's Catechism. This must be the basis of Cranmer's Catechism; but as the Parker Soc. edition of his works gives only his dedicatory Preface to King Edward (Vol. II. p. 418), I can not verify the identity. It seems strange that Cranmer did not translate rather the far more perfect Catechism of Luther. The reason was, no doubt, his personal acquaintance with the author's son, Justus Jonas, jun., who was recommended to him by Melanchthon, was very kindly treated by him, and seems to have been the chief medium of his communication with the German Lutherans. See Strype's Memoir of Cranmer, Vol. II. p. 581; Laurence, p. 17; and Cranmer's Works, Vol. II. p. 425. Cranmer changed about that time his view of the real presence.


When the Reformation was positively introduced under Edward VI., and the Book of Public Worship was prepared, a Catechism was embodied in it, to insure general instruction in the elements of the 656Christian religion. In the Prayer-Books of Edward VI. (1549, 1552) and Elizabeth (1559) this Catechism bears the title 'Confirmation, wherein is contained a Catechism for Children.'

This work has undergone, with other parts of the Prayer-Book, sundry alterations. The commandments were given, first very briefly (as in King Henry's Primer), then in full with a Preface in the edition of 1552. The explanation of the sacraments was added in 1604 by royal authority, in compliance with the wish of the Puritans expressed at the Hampton Court Conference,12651265   Dr. Reynolds said at that Conference: 'The Catechism in the Common Prayer-Book is too brief, and that of Mr. Nowell (late Dean of St. Paul's) too long for novices to learn by heart. I request, therefore, that one uniform Catechism may be made, and none other generally received.' To this King James replied: 'I think the doctor's request very reasonable, yet so that the Catechism may be made in the fewest and plainest affirmative terms that may be,—not like the many ignorant Catechisms in Scotland, set out by every one who was the son of a good man.'—Fuller's Church History of Britain, Vol. V. p. 284. and is attributed to Bishop Overall, then Dean of St. Paul's. In the last revision of the Prayer-Book, in 1661, the title was changed into 'A Catechism,' and two emendations were introduced in the answer on Baptism, as follows:

Earlier Editions. Edition of 1661 (1662)
What is the outward visible sign or form in Baptism? What is the outward visible sign or form in Baptism?
Water; wherein the person baptized is dipped or sprinkled with it, in the name, etc. Water; wherein the person is baptized, in the name, etc.
Why then are infants baptized when by reason of their tender age they can not perform them [repentance and faith]? Why then are infants baptized, when by reason of their tender age they can not perform them?
Yes; they do perform them by their Sureties, who promise and vow them both in their names: which when they come to age themselves are bound to perform. Because they promise them both by their Sureties; which promise, when they come to age, themselves are bound to perform.


In the explanation of the Commandments the words 'the King and his Ministers' were so changed as to read 'the King and all that are put in authority under him.'

This Catechism is a considerable improvement on the mediæval primers, but very meagre if we compare it with the Catechisms of Luther, Calvin, and other Continental Reformers.

The Nonconformist ministers at the Savoy Conference (April, 1661), in reviewing the whole Liturgy, objected to the first three questions of the Catechism, and desired a full exposition of the Lord's Prayer, the Creed, and the Commandments, and additional questions on the nature 657of faith, repentance, the two covenants, justification, adoption, regeneration, and sanctification. These censures were not heeded.12661266   Dr. Shields, in his edition of the Book of Common Prayer as amended by the Savoy Conference (Phila. 1867), has inserted the Shorter Westminster Catechism in the place of the Anglican Catechism. But it does not harmonize with the genius of the Prayer-Book.

The American Episcopal Church adopted, with the body of the Book of Common Prayer, the Catechism also, substituting 'the civil authority' for 'the King,' and omitting several directions in the appended rubrics.

Outside of the Anglican communion the Catechism is used only by the Irvingites who more nearly approach that Church, especially in their liturgy, than any other.


The need of a fuller Catechism for a more advanced age was felt in the Church of England. Such a one was prepared by Poynet, Bishop of Winchester, and published, together with the Forty-two Articles, in Latin and English, in 1553,12671267   Both editions are reprinted by the Parker Society in Liturgies, etc., of Edward VI. apparently with the approval of Cranmer and the Convocation.12681268   'Catechismus brevis Christianæ disciplinæ summam continens:' 'A short Catechism, or plain instruction, containing the sum of Christian learning, set forth by the King's Majesty's authority, for all schoolmasters to teach.' The authority of this Catechism was afterwards disputed. See Hardwick, Hist. of the Articles, p. 109. On the basis of this, Dean Nowell, of St. Paul's, prepared another in 1562, which was amended, but not formally approved by Convocation (Nov. 11, 1562), and published (1570) in several forms—larger, middle, and smaller. The smaller differs but slightly from that in the Prayer-Book.12691269   The larger Catechism appeared first in Latin under the title 'Catechismus, sive prima institutio disciplinaque pietatis Christianæ, latine explicata. Reprinted in Bishop Randolph's Enchirid. Theolog. See Churton's Life of Nowell, pp. 183 sq., and Lathbury, History of Convoc. pp. 167 sq.

Besides these English productions, the Catechisms of Œcolampadius, Leo Judæ, and especially those of Calvin and Bullinger were extensively used, even in the Universities, during the reign of Elizabeth.12701270   Procter says (p. 400): 'Even in 1578, when the exclusive use of Nowell's Catechism had been enjoined in the canons of 1571, those of Calvin, Bullinger, and others were still ordered by statute to be used in the University of Oxford.'

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