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THE CATECHISM--A BAD SUBSTITUTE TO THE
BIBLE-IS SUBSTITUTED FOR IT.
§ I. Church of England Catechism—this perhaps
the first Censorial Commentary ever applied to it.
THE Catechism forms part of that authoritative system of religious discourse, which, by the style and title of “ The Book of Common Prayer, and “ Administration of the Sacraments, and other Rites “ and Ceremonies of the Church, according to the “ use of the Church of England,” has now, for about two centuries and a half, possessed the exclusive privilege of supplying the matter of devotion to the members of that established church: and this in particular is the part, and the only part, the imprinting of which, or rather the words of it, on their memories, has generally been the object of the first literary task, which, at the commencement of the career of intellectual, or at any rate
of literary, instruction,-has given exercise to the faculties and patience of children of both sexes.
Under the pretence of exposition, i. e. explanation, yet not the less in the style and tone of eulogy, it has received comments in abundance, in all which those merits have been ascribed to it, with the existence of which, supposing them to exist, the existence of any utility, whether on the part of the exposition in question, or on the part of any thing else that could have been exhibited in the name or character of an exposition, would have been incompatible.
The thing thus undertaken to be expounded is, in so far as it has any claim to regard, an extract--and that, so far as it goes, a correct onefrom the sacred original. Correctness-clearnessdoes it fail in either of these points? It fails of answering any good purpose to which it can have been directed. Instead of being. expounded, it should be discarded. Were it the original, yes: in so far as, by change in language or manners, obscure allusions to past events or states of things, ex position is found to be requisite. But, an exposition ?-expound an exposition ?-No: absurdity is involved in the very idea of it.—Expound the inadequate exposition ?-No: but, instead of it, give an adequate one, and send the inadequate one to the trunk-makers.
The Scottish Church has its Catechism. It has even two of them, the longer and the shorter the shorter, had it been still shorter, longer than would have been wished. The longer a text, the greater the quantity of matter, for commentators and expositors to crawl over and cover with their slime. Yet, who ever heard of comments or expositions to either of these formularies?
To the Scottish Church this, however, is but the beginning of triumphs. As we advance, many are the points of difference that will present them. selves : and, on each point, will an addition be seen made to the number of her merits.
As to this formulary, whether, amidst the multitude of comments and expositions, with which, under different names, it has been covered, it has ever seen so much as one, other than of that sort which commences with a secret vow, to keep the door of the mind inexorably shut against every idea, the effect of which might be to beget any the least suspicion, of imperfection in any shape, in the consecrated text,-is more than has happened to find its way to the cognizance of the author of
Upon the whole, the abundance of comments of the laudatory cást, coupled with the paucity, or utter non-existence, of any of an accusative, or so much as a critical complexion,-these two naturally connected phenomena present themselves as the altogether natural result of two very obvious
Vast must have been the number of professional men, each of whom beheld advantage to himself in many a shape, from the merit of covering it with his praise :* small indeed, if any, of those, to whose eyes advantage can have presented itself in any shape, as capable of being derived by them from the exposure of any imperfection that might be to be found in it.
Of what benefit, either to the critic himself in any ordinary shape, or so much as to the public at large, in any measurable compass of time, could any such criticism afford a prospect of being productive? That, supposing the formulary ever so full of imperfections, and those imperfections ever so completely demonstrated, the removal of any so much as the minutest, particle of them by authority would ever be the consequence;-at what time could any such result present, to any intelligent mind, any, 'the faintest colour of probability ? And, as to the audacious individual, by whom any
* At school-well do I remember-the only danger I ever felt myself in of punishment, was from my inability to beat into my memory the words for as to sense, it was out of the question -of a Comment, or Exposition of this formulary, by some Archbishop: his name began with a W, which is all I now recollect about this night-mare, by which my sleep was so long disturbed.
should expect to find it either Wake or Williams.