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CATECHISM OF THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND;
DISCOURSE ON CONFIRMATION.
PUBLISHED FROM THE ORIGINAL MANUSCRIPTS,
BY BEILBY PORTEUS, D.D. AND GEORGE STINTON, D.D. HIS GRACE'S CHAPLAINS.
In all matters of importance, every one that wants information, should first seek for it, then attend to it and the more our happiness depends upon judging and acting right in any case, the more care and pains we should take to qualify ourselves for both. Now the happiness of all persons depends beyond comparison chiefly on being truly religious. For true religion consists in three things; reasonable government of ourselves, good behaviour towards our fellow-creatures, and dutifulness to our Maker; the practice of which will give us, for the most part, health of body and ease of mind, a comfortable provision of necessaries, and peace with all around us : but however, will always secure to us, what is infinitely more valuable still, the favour and blessing of God; who on these terms will both watch over us continually with a fatherly kindness in this life, and bestow on us eternal felicity in the next.
Since, therefore, whoever is religious must be happy, the great concern of every one of us is to know and observe the doctrines and rules which religion delivers. Now we all come into the world ig
norant of these; and our faculties are so weak at first, and gain strength so slowly; and the attention of our earlier years to serious things is so small; that even were our duty to comprehend no more than our own reason could teach us, few, if any, would learn it sufficiently without assistance: and none so soon as they would need it. They would come out into a world full of dangers, every way unprepared for avoiding them: would go wrong in the very beginning of life, perhaps fatally; at least would hurt, if they did not ruin themselves; and make their return into the right path certainly difficult, and probably late.
But we must consider yet further, that reason, were it improved to the utmost, cannot discover to us all that we are to believe and do: but a large and most important part of it is to be learnt from the revelation made to us in God's holy word. And this, though perfectly well suited to the purposes for which it was designed, yet, being originally delivered at very distant times, to very different sorts of persons, on very different occasions; and the several articles of faith and precepts of conduct, which it prescribes, not being collected and laid down methodically in any one part of it, but dispersed with irregular beauty through the whole, as the riches of nature are through the creation; the informations of the more knowing must be in many respects needful, to prepare the more ignorant for receiving the benefits of which they are capable from reading the Scripture. And particularly giving them beforehand a summary and orderly view of the principal points comprehended in it, will qualify them better than any other thing to discern its true meaning, so far as is requisite, in each part.
Therefore, both in what reason of itself dictates, and what God hath added to it, instruction is necessary, especially for beginners. And, indeed, as they are never left to find out by their own abilities any other sort of useful knowledge, but always helped, if possible; it would be very strange, if, in the most important kind, the same care at least were not taken.
But besides enlightening the ignorance of persons, instruction doth equal, if not greater, service, by preventing or opposing their prejudices and partialities. From our tenderest age we have our wrong inclinations, and are very prone to form wrong notions in support of them; but which we are extremely backward to acknowledge, and very apt to model our religion in such a manner as to leave room for our faults. Now right explanations clearly delivered, and right admonitions pressed home, in early days, may preserve persons from thus deceiving themselves, and guard them against future, as well as present dangers. Nay, though slighted, and seemingly forgotten for a time, they may still keep secretly such a hold upon the mind as will sooner or later bring those back, who would else never have seen, or never have owned, that they had lost their way.
But a still further advantage of instruction is, that bringing frequently before persons' eyes those truths on which otherwise they would seldom reflect, though ever so much convinced of them, it keeps the thoughts of their duty continually at hand, to resist the temptations with which they are attacked. Thus their lives and their minds are insensibly formed to be such as they ought and being thus trained up in the way wherein they should go, there is great hope, that they will not afterwards depart from it *.
* Prov. xxii. 6.