W. C. E. (William Charles Edmund) Newbolt.

The church catechism; the Christian's manual online

. (page 1 of 28)
Online LibraryW. C. E. (William Charles Edmund) NewboltThe church catechism; the Christian's manual → online text (page 1 of 28)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


The Oxford Library

Practical Theology









Canon :md Chancellor of S. Paul's


39 Paternoster Row: London

New York, and Bombay


A II rights reserved







THE object of the Oxford Library of Practical Theology
is to supply some carefully considered teaching on
matters of Religion to that large body of devout
laymen, who desire instruction, but are not attracted
by the learned treatises which appeal to the theo-
logian. One of the needs of the time would seem to
be, to translate the solid theological learning, of which
there is no lack, into the vernacular of every-day prac-
tical religion ; and while steering a course between what
is called plain teaching on the one hand and erudition
on the other, to supply some sound and readable in-
struction to those who require it, on the subjects
included under the common title 'The Christian
Religion, 1 that they may be ready always to give an
answer to every man that asketh them a reason of the
hope that is in them, with meekness and fear.

The Editors, while not holding themselves precluded
from suggesting criticisms, have regarded their proper
task as that of editing, and accordingly they have not
interfered with the responsibility of each writer for his
treatment of his own subject.

W. C. E. N.

D. S.





I. THE INDIVIDUAL . . . . . . . 11


IV. OBLIGATION ........ 86


I. FAITH .... . . . . 113

II. THE FAITH . . . . . . . 135


I. PRACTICE . . . . . . . . 161

II. PRACTICE . . . . . . . . 185






I. THE SACRAMENTS ....... 287

MENTS . . . 313



FEW thinking men can contemplate unmoved the mag-
nificent pile of ecclesiastical buildings, which crowns
the hill at Ely, and rising above the vast flats of the
Fens, seems to gaze out solemnly upon the mystery of
their blue distances. The chequered history of Eng-
land is written on these walls, and the storms which
have passed over the Church have left on them dark
scars and deep furrows. Character in them, as in the
life of a human being, is evolved out of failure, re-
covery, restoration, and new beginnings.

But to those who know where to seek for it, there
is one record of peculiar significance, which bears on
the subject of these pages. In the gallery adjoining
the western wing of the Bishop's Palace, in the
panels of a bay-window, bearing the arms of Bishop
Goodrich, who occupied the see during the crisis
of the Reformation, is carved 'the Duty towards
God 1 on the left, and 'the Duty towards our neigh-
bour 1 on the right, indicating perhaps the authorship
of this particular part of the Church Catechism ; but
speaking to us certainly with a voice out of those
troublous times of one more effort made to adjust faith
to practice, and to reconcile the conflict, so congenial
to our fallen nature, between orthodoxy in creed and
integrity of life, and to take up the challenge of the
Epistle of S. James : ' Shew me thy faith without thy
works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.' l

For a glance at the Book of Common Prayer will
show how remarkable is the position occupied in its
1 S. James ii. 18.


pages by the Church Catechism. Amidst structural
services, offices, and Liturgy, with their rubrics and
explanatory notes, it stands as an indication of the
spiritual mood in which he who uses the book should
approach the worship of Almighty God. It is, further,
an endeavour to enlist the intelligence as well as the
spiritual apprehension of the worshipper, so that he may
pray with the spirit, and pray with the understanding
also, and that he may sing with the spirit, and sing
with the understanding also. "The Catechism appears
to occupy the position which it does, in obedience to
the same principle which has given us the long exhorta-
tions in the various parts of the book, here however
carried much further into the inmost recesses of the
Faith. Every child must be taught the relation in
which he stands to the God Whom he worships : Who
He is in His Being and Nature, how He is to be
approached, and what He requires as His own right,
and what He expects from us as regards our fellow-
men, and finally what is the underlying deep significance,
in the region of grace, of the outward ceremonies and
ecclesiastical terms which are here imposed on tin
devout Churchman.

A short explanation of the history of the Catechism,
where it stood first in the Prayer Book, when it was
produced, how it has been amplified, and who were
its probable authors, has already appeared in a previous
volume of this series, to which we must refer our readers. 1
It is only necessary now to attempt to justify this fuller
treatment of that which was originally a manual for
children about to be confirmed, as a working r<>ni|H>n-
dium of rules of faith and practice for grown-up mm.

It surely will not be maintained that the Catct hi>in
is one of the childish things to be put away when one
becomes a man ; rather we believe that those who com-
piled it gathered up into brief, pregnant, and servict -
able sentences, so much of the principles of religion a

1 Pullan, Hiitoryoftht Book f Common Prayer, pp. 207-8.


would form the basis of a man's spiritual life, when he
had passed out of the region of childhood into the
hard facts of practical experience. The Church here
trains up the child in the way he should go, in the
express earnest hope that when he is old he will not
depart from it. And it will be found, that in many
cases at all events it is true, that the inner meaning
underlying these questions and answers has only been
understood when life has given its fuller teaching, and
experience its deeper explanation. And so we find,
that, although from time to time there has been a desire
to simplify the teaching of the Catechism on the one
hand, and enlarge its scope on the other, hitherto
it has remained unchanged since Overall added the
section on Sacraments in 1604. A manual which
is to survive childhood must needs be couched in solid
terms, and words which are to be committed to memory
will of necessity be brief.

The object of these chapters is to show the excellent
grounding in faith and practice which he has received
who has been trained in the teaching of the Church
Catechism ; and how it may be to us a point of de-
parture for graver lessons than those which appear on
the surface ; while it supplies a valuable scheme and
arrangement under which to group those vital truths
of religion which bear upon our life.

And so Archbishop Benson has said in his address to
his Diocesan Conference in 1891 : ' I believe that there
never has been in the hands of any Church any manual re-
presenting the doctrines, the true spirit of the Bible, to
compare with the Catechism of the Church of England. 11

In taking the Church Catechism as a sufficient
manual of instruction for the Churchman of to-day, we
lay ourselves open to objections from many quarters.

A book of instruction which appears in the sixteenth
and seventeenth centuries can hardly be adapted to the
requirements of the twentieth, it must needs amplify or
1 Quoted in Robinson, Chttrch. Catechism Explained.


exaggerate much which, if of importance then, has since
become exploded and obsolete. It must needs be out
of touch with modern methods, and irresponsive to the
wants and difficulties which have been created by the
extraordinary developments of modern life ; further,
however suspiciously we may view the term, there is a
legitimate development in the life of the Church, and
no one can deny that what has been called the Reforma-
tion settlement is much nearer settlement as a system
in the Church of England, than it was when the
Catechism appeared, or in the turbulent times which
have fallen on the Church at subsequent epochs of her
career. Certainly there is an old-world ring about the
phrases so familiar to us. He who penned the answers
to these questions, and planned the scheme on which
the questions are based, had no doubt as to the
importance of definite dogmatic Faith. He had no
thoughts of a conscience clause drawn as a bar across
the entrance to elementary truth. He had no idea of
a system of education which should proceed in absolute
ignorance of God's revealed Word, or pass it through
the close meshes of the sieve of prejudice, until only a
thin residuum survived barely reducible to the contents
of one of the answers here put before the Christian
child. It is true that for the last thirty-two years the
Church Catechism has had to bear the brunt of the
assault on what is called denominational religion ; and
the spirit of the age has been favourable to the assault.
The Catechism has been attacked in the schools, tin
Bible in the critical workshops, the Chnrrh on contro-
versial platforms. Any positive statement because it
is positive, any definite system because it is definite,
seems to act as an irritant, and to challenge- immediate
attack. * O God, if there be a God, save my soul, if I
have a soul/ is a more popular formula than tliiM
proposition^ which speak of 4 a state of salvation," 1 of a
definite faith, of sacraments necessary to salvation, and
of duties to God, as well as duties to man. \Yr 1


been told again and again that children do not under-
stand dogmatic distinctions, and so the Fatherhood of
God is taught them with such dilution as the spirit of
the age demands, and the child must be left to learn as
best he may about the Saviour, and be extremely care-
ful to avoid superstition, if he goes on to learn of God
the Sanctifier.

Thirty-two years is a long enough period by which
to test the probable trend of a widespread, well-
developed system of education, which represents the
exact opposite to the principles enunciated in the
Church Catechism, and no one can say that the outlook
is reassuring. Here are two admissions side by side
made by one entirely in sympathy with modern methods,
and in a book where ' the voluntary school system ' is
unsparingly denounced. ' Upon these city generations
there has operated the now widely spread influence of
thirty years of elementary school teaching. The result
is a mental change ; each individual has been endowed
with the power of reading, and a certain dim and
cloudy capacity for apprehending what he reads.
Hence the vogue of the new sensational press, with its
enormous circulation and baneful influence; the per-
petual demand for fiercer excitement . . . from his
papers.' l This is the one statement, the other follows
later on : ' Virtually it may be said the only forces
operating among the new city race, the only attempts
at spiritual or collective effort with which any dweller
in it is ever likely to come into contact, are the forces
of the older creeds of Christianity.' 2 The writer goes
on to speak of them as developing and broadening, but
still to him ' they offer the only adequate machinery
for the warfare against the degenerating influences of
modern town life.' This would seem to be profoundly
true, and to offer the only hope for realising modern
ideals, which hitherto have assumed it to be possible
to do our duty towards our neighbour, before we know
1 The Church and the Empire, p. 8. J Ibid. p. 34.


our duty towards God, and that God is what we conceive
that He might possibly be, not what Revelation has
shown that He is.

The simple strength of the principles embodied in the
Catechism stands out more firmly than ever from the
wreckage of the flimsy buildings which were erected to
hide it. And the more these principles are studied
the more they will be seen to represent not'an attenu-
ated residuum of truth, to which no one has any objec-
tion, but a serviceable minimum such as a child may
learn, and a busy man remember, of facts in the spiri-
tual world as true now as when they were written,
and which always must be true, because they are based
on elementary principles and historical evidence. The
existence and nature of God as He has been pleased to
declare it either in natural or revealed religion, is
susceptible of no change. Our right relation to this
truth is of constant and vital importance, it must
regulate our conduct, and act as a restraint on the one
hand and an encouragement on the other. What God
has done and is doing for us, is as important for us
to know, as what we are doing for Him. Here is no
region where we should expect to find change. God
loves us, and always has loved and always will love
us, as certainly as the sun shines in the heaven above.
Sin ruins, the devil kills, and the world corrupts, with
the same undeviating regularity as that with which fire
burns, or water drowns, or poison kills.

Everything which God has said is of extreme im-
portance for us to know and act upon, more especially
such things as He has emphasised as necessary. And
He Who knew what was best for man, because 1 It -
was Man, and knew what was in man, gave us the
Catholic Church. And here is a manual instructing
every child as to what he will find in the Church as he
passes through life, and recalling every man to the
trm- principles by which he is to guide his COUI-.M.'
through its many difficulties.


If there is a tendency to regulate modern life on the
principle that ' what a person is, is of more importance
in God's sight than what particular religious formulas
of belief he affirms or denies,' the principle, on the other
hand, which runs through the Catechism is rather this,
' what a man is in God's sight depends on the particular
religious formulae of belief he affirms or denies.'
Religion is not a department of a man's life which lies
on the outside of it, but a regulating principle which
governs the whole, and right practice is of necessity
the outcome of a right faith which governs that practice :
4 a corrupt tree cannot bring forth good fruit,' and a
man's life depends in the very last degree on what he
believes, as is stated in its most extreme form in the
Athanasian Creed, viz. that a right faith is necessary
to salvation, which does not mean that we shall have
to pass an examination in theology as a preliminary to
entering heaven, but that the way of life can only be
trodden in safety by those who know its conditions,
and that Horeb, the Mount of God, is a place too dis-
tant, and a goal too arduous, for those who know
nothing of the meat in whose strength they must
undertake the journey otherwise too great for them.

It is in this spirit that the child is taught the dog-
matic truths of the Catechism, and returns to them
again and again when he is older, to assure himself
that he is in the right path, by the sight of the
familiar beacons of the Faith, the protecting hedge of
the moral law, and the river of grace which runs beside
the path. It is possible that two classes of readers may
consult these pages : those who are put in charge with
children and are earnestly anxious to impart to them
sound principles as to the way of life ; and those who
desire to test the working value of principles long since
committed to memory, and now challenged by the
newer methods of the day, and the changing fashions
which affect religion as well as other things. As to
the first, they will not find, except it may be


incidentally, any explanatory or historical treatment
of the text : this has been done already in many simple
and accessible books of instruction. They will find
rather the exposition of certain principles which form
the basis of such instruction : the importance of the
individual, the power of influence, the life of principle,
the influence of conscience, the importance of faith, the
conception of duty, and the rationale and power of
sacraments. While at the same time those who are
seeking for themselves to deepen their hold on religion
and religious truth will see the importance of a firm
hold of first principles in faith and conduct, as the
best safeguard of that progress which means to advance
in the way of truth, and of that liberty which means
a freedom to do right.

It is now more than fifty years since a book was
brought out on similar lines by Mr. Isaac Williams
in the series of 'Plain Sermons by contributors to
Tract* for the Times? The Catechism has not altered
since then, neither have the great truths altered to
which the learner is there directed, but the con-
ditions of life are changed considerably, and its
perplexities and difficulties multiplied. Nothing is
more wonderful in Christianity than its applicability
to the shifting circumstances of an ever-changing
world, and to the various types of humanity which
come under its sway. So it will be found with this
Catechism, which embodies its precepts, that while suit-
able for a child it appeals to the grown-up man, while
drawn up in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, it
has a clear message also to the twentieth, and that com-
plex life in cities as well as the quiet life in the country
are alike calmer and fuller if based on an intelligent
appreciation of these elementary truths, which begin
with the Christian name of the individual and end with
' charity to all men, 1 as the Creed also begins with * I '
and loses itself in * the Catholic Church ' and * the Com-
munion of Saints " in that life which is everlasting.


Question. What is your Name ?

Answer. N or M.

Question. Who gave you the Name ?

Answer. My Godfathers and Godmothers in my Baptism :
wherein I was made a member of Christ, the child of God, and
an inheritor of the kingdom of heaven.

Question. What did your Godfathers and Godmothers then for

Answer. They did promise and vow three things in my name.
First, that I should renounce the devil and all his works, the
pomps and vanity of this wicked world, and all the sinful lusts
of the flesh. Secondly, that I should believe all the Articles of
the Christian Faith. And thirdly, that I should keep God's holy
will and commandments, and walk in the same all the days of
my life.

Question. Dost thou not think that thou art bound to believe,
and to do, as they have promised for thee ?

Answer. Yes, verily ; and by God's help so I will. And I
heartily thank our heavenly Father that He hath called me to
this state of salvation, through Jesus Christ our Saviour. And
I pray unto God to give me His grace, that I may continue in
the same unto my life's end.



'And they made signs to his father, how he would
have him called.'

I said, M. de Saint Antoine est beau-pere de M. le due
de Gazes, n'est-ce pas ? Non monsieur, said Talleyrand,
1'on disait il y a douze ans, que M. de Saint Antoine etait
beau-pere de M. de Gazes : Ton dit maintenant queM. de
Gazes est gendre de M. de Saint Antoine.

THE familiarity of familiar things is the chief obstacle
to our bestowing any serious thought upon them.
Now and then, for instance, a specialist arises who
shows us the mysteries and possibilities of light or the
wondrous properties of air. But the majority of men
are quite contented to believe that there always have
been light and air, and that there is nothing more to be
said about them. So with such a familiar thing as a
man's name, few stop to think of the possibility of any
underlying mystery being attached to it, or of any
important teaching belonging to it, and would be dis-
posed to compare unfavourably the abrupt and prosaic
opening of the Church Catechism with others which
seem to be more dignified and profound. ' What is
your Name ? ' This seemed to be the first and all-
important question to be asked of and answered by
children, in the estimation of those who compiled this
manual of instruction. Not surely in itself, that is,
from the fact of a child possessing this or that name,

but inferentially from the fact of his having a name at



all, as distinct from a number or other subdivision
of a family.

That this is no trick of fancy nor forced explanation
to account for a weak feature, may be seen in several
directions. First, in the obvious importance attached
to names in Holy Scripture; secondly, in the very
great care and thought which is still in some cases
bestowed in the giving of them, coupled of course with
absolute indifference in others; and thirdly, in the
vital importance of the underlying truths which are
thereby symbolised, which act and react upon the
character of those that think.

The importance attached to names in Holy
Scripture is so patent as hardly to need demonstra-
tion : but it may be useful to try and tabulate or
classify the usages respecting them. First, we may
distinguish generally a tendency to emphasise the
significance of individual names, and to point to a
message which lies hid in them, to a revelation which
they are able to give. Any one who has investigated
not only the names of people but the names of things
in a good dictionary will know what a fascinating and
instructive study it is, as he finds that we are sur-
rounded with eloquent and appealing symbols, not with
arbitrary signs for mere convenience. Holy Scripture
draws attention to this, and shows us at times how the
names themselves came to be, and how their signifi-
cance expanded itself. The most striking example of
this is the Name of God, which is appealed to again
and again as a matter of the utmost solemnity and
of the most extreme importance, a name given by
God Almighty to Himself in stages of progressive
revelation, each stage significant, each appealing
to men to recognise the character and claims of


Him Whom they invoked, and clothing the great
mystery of the Godhead in the ideas which underlie
the expression of Almightiness, simple existence,
Fatherhood, Sonship, and Spirit.

And so throughout the pages of Holy Scripture
we are directed by the interpreting Spirit not to
forget the significance of names. Ichabod, the child
of the unhappy Phineas's wife, is a living witness
to a forfeited glory, and to the causes which brought
it about. 1 Nabal is the speaking embodiment of a
fool; 2 the pool of Siloam, whither the blind man
goes at the command of Christ, is ' by interpretation,
Sent.' 3 While Zacharias 'the remembrancer of God,'
Elizabeth 'the oath of God, 1 and John 'the favour
of God, 1 are all obviously adapted to the memorable
incidents in which they appear at the threshold of
the Gospel. 4 The fact of this underlying significance
is only what we should expect in a world which
seems to be hung with diagrams, and vocal with
sermons, and resounding with warnings. But the
appeal to their significance shows us how liable we
are to forget the manifold appeals of God under the
stupefying influence of familiarity or of repeated
impressions. The parable of the Sower, the lesson from
the lilies and the ravens, and Maher-shalal-hash-baz
the child of Isaiah, 5 and Jezreel the child of Hosea, 6
are examples of the same kind of living appeal which
God has made and still makes to the heart of His
people through the imagination, in a world where
nothing is wasted and everything is significant.

Closely connected with this, and yet with a more
personal bearing on the individual, we have the ex-
amples of names given to men, either as a prophecy of
some latent power yet to be developed, or as a title
commemorative of some achievement won, or of a good

1 i Sam. iv. 21. 2 i Sam. xxv. 25. 3 S. John ix. 7.

* S. Luke i. 5, 13. 5 Isa. viii. 3. 6 Hos. i. 4.


quality discovered in the character. So with reverence
it may be said that the Holy Name of Jesus, twice in-
sisted on by supernatural intervention before the sacred
virgin birth, was a prophecy and an indication of the

Online LibraryW. C. E. (William Charles Edmund) NewboltThe church catechism; the Christian's manual → online text (page 1 of 28)