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IMG_1621“The Assembly, considering that the long-waited-for fruits of the Gospel, so mercifully planted and preserved in this land, and the reformation of ourselves and families, so solemnly vowed to God of late in our Covenant, cannot take effect except the knowledge and worship of God be caried from the pulpit to every family within each parish, hath, therefore, appointed that every minister, besides his paines on the Lord’s day, shall have weekly catechising of some part of the paroch, and not altogether cast over the examination of the people till a little before the communion. Also, that in every familie the worship of God be erected where it is not both morning and evening, and that the children and servants be catechised at home by the masters of the families, whereof account shall be taken by the minister and elders assisting him in the visitation of every family; and, lest they fail, that visitation of the severall kirks be seriously followed by every Presbyterie, for this end among others. The execution and successe whereof, being tried by the Synods, let it be represented to the next Generall Assembly.

-Acts of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, 1639

This late 17th century treatise on ministerial catechesis by Robert Doolittle is simply masterful. A few highlights are worth mentioning. He argues that catechesis should not just be a discipline for the young, but also for the old. One is also struck by the great importance he places on stocking the mind with the furniture of foundational, biblical doctrine. And it is hardly an academic exercise – eternity hangs in the balance. No knowledge, no salvation!

Below is a sample. I’ve simply inserted images from the document. Yes, it’s in an old script. But give it a go, and it will come before long. Note that some s’s look like f’s.

The gospel is a discovery of a blessed contrivance that God has laid down for the salvation of sinners, for providing them a blessed supply of all [their] defects. There was from eternity a happy contrivance framed for providing sinful man with a garment, a robe of righteousness, that the shame of his nakedness may not appear; and for preparing eyesalve to him, to cure his natural folly and blindness; and riches to him, that he may have a sufficient stock to live upon in time and for eternity, even riches of grace, and riches of glory, the unsearchable riches of Christ…. There ensues the heart’s cleaving to this contrivance, even to the whole of it, with universal satisfaction, being fully content with it in all its parts, and preferring it to all other ways; nay, not only so, but counting them loss and dung, so it may have an interest in this way and method of God’s contriving. This is that acting of saving faith that gives a sure title to Christ and all his purchase

-Thomas Halyburton

“As preachers, they were all remarkable. There are some who preach before their people, like actors on the stage, to display themselves and to please their audience. Not such were the self-denied preachers of Ross-shire. There are others who preach over their people. Studying for the highest, instead of doing so for the lowest, in intelligence, they elaborate learned treatises, which float like mist, when delivered, over the heads of their hearers. Not such were the earnest preachers of Ross-shire. There are some who preach past their people. Directing their praise or their censure to intangible abstractions, they never take aim at the views and the conduct of the individuals before them. They step carefully aside, lest their hearers should be struck by their shafts, and aim them at phantoms beyond them. Not such were the faithful preachers of Ross-shire. There are others who preach at their people, serving out in a sermon the gossip of the week, and seemingly possessed with the idea, that the transgressor can be scolded out of the ways of iniquity. Not such were the wise preachers of Ross-shire. There are some who preach towards their people. They aim well, but they are weak. Their eye is along the arrow towards the hearts of their hearers, but their arm is too feeble for sending it on to the mart Superficial in their experience and in their knowledge, they reach not the cases of God’s people by their doctrine, and they strike with no vigour at the consciences of the ungodly. Not such were the powerful preachers of Ross-shire. There are others still, who preach along their congregation. Instead of standing with their bow in front of the rank, these archers take it in line, and, reducing their mark to an individual, never change the direction of their aim. Not such were the discriminating preachers of Ross-shire. But there are a few who preach to the people directly and seasonably the mind of God in His word, with authority, unction, wisdom, fervour, and love. Such as these last were the eminent preachers of Ross-shire.”

-John Kennedy of Dingwall, The Days of the Fathers in Ross-Shire, pp. 32-33

Simply put

“When I am preaching, I see Dr. Jonas sitting there, and Oecolampadius, and Melanchthon, and I say to myself, ‘Those learned doctors know enough already; so I need not trouble about them. I shall fire at the poor people in the aisles.’”

-Martin Luther

“February 15th, 1813. — I know not a more serious drawback to mixed society than the exclusion of all conversation about the one thing needful ; and it comes to be a seriousquestion, How are you to get the better of it? Are you to lift your testimony against it? This zeal would prompt; but we are also called to walk in wisdom toward those that are without. There must be a way of introducing the topic, so as to make a useful impression, so as to conciliate prejudice, so as to win, if possible, rather than repel. I confess it is to me a thing beset with many difficulties, and I fear thatan unmanly shame may have some share in it. It is certainly wrong to disguise it from others that you look uponeternity as your uppermost concern. Disguise this, and you add the sanction of your example to their exclusive indulgence in the frivolities of time — you add to the multitude of stumbling-blocks or offenses which lie in the way of others. It is delightful that there is a promise annexed to the prayer for wisdom; and I know not a more delicate subject for the application of wisdom than the one I am now insisting on.”

-Thomas Chalmers, from his private journal