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Entered, according to the Act of Congress, in the year one thousand eight hundred and thirty-one, by CROCKER & BREWSTER, in the Clerk's Office of the District Court of Massachusetts.
IN religious subjects, vastly important is the question of Pilate to Christ, What is truth? Agreeably to the Divine economy in human salvation, men are renewed and sanctified by the Holy Spirit, through the instrumentality of the Word of truth. All the Christian graces are exercised in view of gospel truth. The Scriptures give no account that any, who had arrived to years of discretion, were converted, sanctified, or saved, till they had been favored with religious instruction. How important, then, that mankind should be indoctrinated in the Word of God,—should have some definite views of the doctrines, duties, and graces of Christianity!-Half a century ago, the question in the religious community of New England yery generally was, What is truth? In the present day, the question seems to be, What will promote revivals of religion and Christian enterprises? While the latter cannot be too highly valued, the former should receive all due attention, as Divine truth is the basis upon which the others rest; and no further are they to be approved, than they accord with the unerring standard of truth.
A discussion of the great and momentous truths of religion, in a clear and concise manner, and with such a classification and arrangement, as that their
mutual connection and dependence may appear, is deemed very desirable, especially when all classes in society, and, most emphatically, the young, are exposed to the 'seductions of vice and the scoffs of infidelity.' Such a discussion, it is hoped, will be found in the following pages. The Author has adopted the catechetical form of writing, as admitting the greatest quantity of matter within the same compass, and as best adapted to the end he had in view. He has long been of the opinion, that instruction, systematically given, in way of question and answer, is well calculated to impress the mind. It is the first mode of acquiring knowledge, and the most natural and happy mode. This method of instruction is profitable, as it gives just and precise definitions of sacred truth, which the memory can easily retain, and which may serve as a basis on which to raise the superstructure of divine knowledge. Deeply impressed with this consideration, the Author published a Catechism for children and youth, on the doctrines and duties of the Christian religion, in the year 1817, and, from that time to the present, has been much attached to this manner of imparting divine truth. Such, too, was the mode of instructing, adopted by the Reformers in the sixteenth century, as the most happy, concise, and easy way of communicating religious knowledge. The work is designed as a text book in the instruction of theological classes and the higher classes in Sabbath schools-as an assistant to the instructer and the instructed.
The Author is aware that there are many books published in the present day for the instruction and benefit of the rising generation, and many of them, he believes, will have a very happy effect. It should,
however, be remembered, that most of them are calculated to instruct loosely-to give vague and general ideas of the Word of God. This method of teaching the doctrines and duties of the gospel, it is acknowledged, will be most pleasing to the lax and indiscriminating; but not to those who wish clearly, accurately, and precisely to apprehend the truth as it is in Jesus; nor is it the method most conducive to genuine, vital, and active piety.
The work is published at the suggestion and urgent request of many clerical and lay gentlemen. Should it in any good degree answer its design, the Author will feel himself abundantly rewarded. May the only wise God our Saviour bless this effort to advance the cause of truth and righteousness in the earth.
BOSTON, DECEMBER, 1831.
It is intended that the answers to the questions, and the passages of Scripture which support the answers, should be committed in thought, if not in language, and recited by the pupils; and then that the instructer should enlarge, illustrate, enforce, and apply by his own remarks, both in relation to the questions and answers, and the Scripture proofs.